Valerie Harper, the great Rhoda Morgenstern, a role she played in a day gone by, has been an inspiration to cancer victims and survivors everywhere, living her life as the good Lord intended – to the fullest. She has been diagnosed with leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, a rare form of lung cancer actually found in the brain.
In 2009, she was diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer and had the tumor removed. She was told the cancer had not spread, but in January of this year, after tests ruled out a stroke and other possible causes, she was diagnosed with this form of cancer, also called cerebral carcinomatosis. The cancer cells from her lungs had spread to the meninges, which is three layers of tissue that protect the central nervous system. Think of it like a bag that contains the brain, spinal cord and spinal fluid.
In March, 2013, she was given three months to live. But, like the trooper she is, she continued to live, work, and play as she always had, with the life and verve that was deep within her. Since her diagnosis, she continued to perform on stage and TV, working at the craft she loves.
This summer, she appeared along with her TV sisters, Cloris Leachman and Mary Tyler Moore, to join up once again with MTM Show alum Betty White, on Miss Betty’s hit show Hot In Cleveland. And in September, this former dancer was named as one of the contestants on this season’s Dancing With the Stars. After four weeks, sadly, her inspirational run on DWTS came to an end on October 7.
She reacted in characteristic fashion. As the audience and fellow dancers cheered and cried, Harper beamed. “It has been absolutely wonderful, completely unique, like nothing else in the world,” she said, adding with a smile, “It’s really a great thing to get out and dance!”
So, Valerie, thanks for the run, and showing all of us, cancer victims and non-victims alike, what it means to be a winner, and how easy it is to overcome this adversity, with grace, faith and courage. Just by competing in this difficult show, she won with all the physical and emotional energy it takes each week to perform at such a high level, to the point of exhaustion.
As Sinatra once sang probably with you in mind, “Here’s to the winners, all of us can be.” Congratulations!