‘Rhoda’ actress Valerie Harper living ‘fully’ despite brain cancer

Actress Valerie Harper. Credit: Reuters
Actress Valerie Harper.
Credit: Reuters

Actress Valerie Harper, star of the 1970s television comedy “Rhoda,” says she is determined to “live each day’s moments fully” despite a brain cancer diagnosis that doctors told her could bring death in a matter of days or in several years.

Harper, 73, who won four Emmy Awards for her signature sitcom role, said on NBC’s “Today” show on Monday that the reality of her illness hit home “when I heard the word ‘incurable.’”

“‘Incurable’ is a tough word, so is ‘terminal,’” she said with a laugh. The interview, taped from her home in Los Angeles, marked Harper’s first appearance on network television since she disclosed her cancer diagnosis in a People magazine cover story last Wednesday.

In that article, Harper said she learned in mid-January that she was suffering from leptomeningeal carcinomatosis — cancer in the membrane of her brain — and was given as little as three months to live.

In her televised interview with Savannah Guthrie of the “Today” show, Harper said her doctor told her she could live anywhere from a week, if for example she suffered a seizure, to a few months or even for several years, and that he had patients who had lived much longer than the prognosis.

Harper was a prime-time staple on U.S. television through most of the 1970s, first as the brassy but insecure neighbor Rhoda Morgenstern on the hit CBS sitcom “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” The character proved so popular that Harper was given her own spinoff series, “Rhoda,” which ran for several more seasons on CBS.

“A lot of folks are calling (asking), ‘Can I come by the house?’ ‘Are you in a wheelchair?’, because they hear it as a death sentence, which it may be,” Harper said on “Today.” “But I’m not dying until I do. I promise I won’t.”

As to holding out hope against a seemingly grim fate, Harper, her voice hoarse due to a bout of laryngitis, said that beyond being hopeful, “I have an intention to live each day’s moments, fully.”

Harper recently completed a tour promoting her new autobiography “I, Rhoda” and starred on Broadway as Tallulah Bankhead in “Looped,” for which she earned a Tony Award nomination.

Harper, who underwent surgery for lung cancer in 2009, said on “Today” that the disease she is currently battling is “very rare” and was “hard to detect because it was diffuse. It’s all around. It’s not in one lump.”

She recounted feeling odd symptoms when she was working to take her “Looped” show on tour, noticing “this weird feeling in my jaw,” adding, “I vomited for no reason and wasn’t sick. And I thought, ‘That’s weird.’”

Despite the dire nature of her condition, Harper said she clings to hope.

“The thing I have is … very rare and it’s serious and it’s incurable … so far. So I’m holding on to the ‘so far.’”


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.

International

Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.

News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

Local

Oval oasis: Summer of fun kicks off this…

A bold partnership between the Fairmount Park Conservancy and the city's Parks and Recreation Department is kicking off this weekend with family activities re-activating this unused public space.

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

MLB

Jimmy Rollins is key to Phillies success

When John Kruk was asked about what the Phillies need to contend for a playoff berth, the ESPN analyst said Jimmy Rollins needs to play like a MVP again.

MLB

Ben Revere lifts Phillies to avoid sweep

Ben Revere came through with a two-out RBI single against Atlanta’s tough lefthander Alex Wood.

NBA

Season wrap: 76ers make the grade

The 76ers opened the 2013-14 season with a victory over the Miami Heat. The Sixers closed the season with a win at Miami.

NBA

Fantasy basketball: Finding next year's NBA studs

Before we put the 2013-14 fantasy basketball season to bed, it’s worth thinking about next year’s breakouts while they’re fresh in our mind.

Tech

VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.

Tech

#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.