Valerie Harper announced last year that she was battling terminal brain cancer, shocking her fans and those who had grown up watching her on television. But even then, she said she was hopeful for the future, as she was beating the odds after being given only a short time to live.
“I’d say that we’re getting pretty close to a remission,” neuro-oncologist Jeremy Rudnick said on the “Today” show. “It defies the odds.”
Despite being diagnosed with leptomeningeal carcinomatosis--a rare condition that occurs when cancer cells spread into the fluid-filled membrane around the brain--74-year old Harper has since been a contestant on "Dancing With The Stars" and accepted a role in the television movie "The Town That Came A Courtin'", proving that it takes a lot more than a terminal diagnosis to keep her down.
"[The oncologist] looked at the scans and said, ‘Oh my God, Valerie, this is very encouraging!'" Harper said. "I’m now the poster child for not believing everything I’m told."
Harper has clarified a rumor going around that she's cancer free, saying it came from a misquote in Closer Magazine.
"I am not 'absolutely cancer-free.' I wish I were," she told the Hallmark Channel. "Right now what I am is cautiously optimistic about my present condition and I have hope for the future...there may come a time when I'm not feeling good. But then again, that time may never come."'
Still, there have been challenges. Harper knew something was wrong last year when she was rehearsing for the Matthew Lombardo play "Looped" and couldn't remember her lines. The role is one she'd already won a Tony for.
"She was having problems remembering her lines," Lombardo said at the time. "We thought, 'That's strange. How can she not remember?' She knew the play inside and out. I wrote it for her. She just didn't seem like herself."
Harper was initially given 3-6 months to live. Now, she's focusing on taking her medication and taking care of herself. Considering she's already beaten lung cancer, the diagnosis isn't one that the actress takes lightly, but it's not keeping her down, either.
I take medication once a week, a lot of pills at once, what they call a pulse dose," she said. "They can be difficult, but I try to sleep them off — I usually lay in bed very quietly to keep them down."
— Stern Show (@sternshow) April 16, 2014
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