Actress Valerie Harper admitted she had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer back in March, noting that she had leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, a very specific type of cancer that lives inside a fluid-filled membrane encasing the brain. Doctors expected her to live for only a couple of months. Now, it has been six months since the actress first learned of her disease and the Rhoda and Mary Tyler Moore Show TV personality has actually seen improvement in her health thanks to her treatments, buying her some more time to live.
Yesterday, reports indicated that the 74-year-old actress would be appearing on the brand new season of Dancing with the Stars, despite her terminal illness. While this seemed wild at the time, on Thursday, Harper’s therapist Jeremy Rudnick spoke to Today to talk about the potential for remission.
"I'd say that we're getting pretty close to a remission. It defies the odds.”
While this seems to mean Harper might actually beat her illness, the actress is quick to point out that the disease is “not curable” and that treatment for her disease typically stops being effective after the cancer develops a resistance. Currently, Harper is undergoing a combination of chemotherapy, accupuncture, and drinking Chinese tea. Still, for Harper and her husband Tony Cacciotti, having more time together is a gift. Cacciotti had plenty to say about the hope the doctors have given him, as well as his wife.
"Going from having three months to live or less; we're into our sixth month. And now there's even hope beyond right now we’re looking at... This is overwhelming."
The most beautiful moment in the interview snippet occurs when Harper gets giddy about the possibility of living all of the way through Christmas. It’s tough to see anyone go through a horrible illness, and sad to think that a high point in the actress' shortened life will be to live through the holidays, but as Harper notes to Meredith Vieira at the beginning of the interview, she’s just trying to “live life to the fullest” while she has the time.
If you are interested in hearing more from Harper and her thoughts on cancer, life and living, and what lies ahead for the actress, you can catch a one-hour documentary detailing the last several months, which is set to air on NBC on September 19 at 10 p.m. ET. Additionally, TV Land's special Mary Tyler Moore Show reunion on Hot in Cleveland is slated to pop up in the schedule next week, on September 4. Or you can catch a few snippets from the interview and more on Harper’s story, below.