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Valerie Harper on her cancer: 'I'm living in the moment'

March 11, 2013|By Christie D'Zurilla

Valerie Harper was was all over TV on Monday, sharing her brave attitude in the face of terminal cancer through interviews on NBC's "Today" show and CBS' "The Doctors."

The actress, best known as Rhoda Morgenstern on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and later the spinoff series "Rhoda," learned of her condition, leptomeningial carcinomatosis, on Jan. 15. The disease affects the fluid-filled membranes that surround the brain and is very rare. And, so far, incurable.

"When I heard incurable — incurable is a tough word," the 73-year-old told Savannah Guthrie on "Today" in an interview taped over the weekend. "Terminal is a tough word.

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"But [the doctor] then said, 'But it could be a week, you could have a seizure, it could be three months, it could be several years. I have people with this disease who have lived much longer than their prognosis.'"

Harper noted to People — in the article that announced her situation to the world last week — that she's already well past what she called her "expiration date," as she first suffered symptoms about eight months ago. Among those symptoms, which occurred over time until she finally saw a neurologist, were a band of pain around her midsection, a numbness in the right side of her jaw and an episode of nausea that left her car windshield "obliterated with vomit."

So why do the interviews, including the print chat with People last week that told the world of her situation?

"I just thought that while I'm still able — because it is brain — to speak and show you that i'm cooking my husband's dinner, I'm walking on the bluff at Santa Monica and more than anything I'm living in the moment," Harper said on "The Doctors" in an interview taped last week.

"I really want Americans, and all of us, to be less afraid of death, and know that it's a passage, but that — don't go to the funeral before the day of the funeral.

"While you're living, live."


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