Photo Credit: Paul Redmond/WireImage
Valerie Harper is showing us what it means to be strong. The actress, best known for playing Rhoda Morgenstern on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and its spin-off Rhoda, has revealed that she has terminal brain cancer and may have as little as three months to live.
"I don't think of dying," Harper, 73, tells People. "I think of being here now."
According to the magazine, the actress is suffering from a rare and incurable form of cancer called leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, in which cancer cells attack the spinal fluid that flows around the brain. A previous survivor of lung cancer, Harper received her brain cancer diagnosis in January. (Her telling symptom: numbness in her jaw.) At the time of the diagnosis, the busy lady was rehearsing her one-woman stage show Looped and promoting her memoir, I, Rhoda.
Harper is undergoing chemotherapy to slow the disease's progress, but understands that her condition will not improve.
"The total burden of cancer gets to such a high volume that the body sort of begins to shut down," one of Harper's doctors explains to People.
We are awed by Harper's courage in coming forward with her story, especially since she has so little time left. But because her condition is so rare, accounting for less than 2 percent of all cancers, Harper is determined to bring it out in the open.
"I was stunned," she says of the moment she received the news. "And in the next minute I thought, 'This could draw more attention to cancer research.' I think there's an opportunity to help people."
Harper's revelation has inspired a well-deserved outpouring of support from fans and friends. On Twitter, Hoda Kotb writes, "I adore you xoxo we all do and are praying for you." White Collar star Willie Garson tweets, "Very sad news about @ValerieHarper wish her peace and comfort, a truly kind person." And Nia Vardalos is thanking Harper for inspiring her character in My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
"Valerie Harper, please know you will always be every awkward girl's mentor. Love, Toula," Vardalos writes.
If you, too, want to support the actress, you can tweet to @ValerieHarper -- or better yet, make a donation to cancer research. And we hope Valerie knows that Rhoda will always have a place in our hearts.