Multiple Emmy Award-winning actress, author and humanitarian Valerie Harper is perhaps best known for her comedic role as Rhoda Morgenstern, best friend and trusted sidekick to Mary Tyler Moore’s character on her eponymous hit TV series and the spinoff show, Rhoda. Two years ago, Valerie bravely announced that she had been diagnosed with leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, a rare form of cancer that affects the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. At the time of her first appearance on The Doctors in March, 2013 , doctors believed she had as little as three months to live.
“What I have is rare. It’s also incurable, so far,” Valerie told The Doctors. “More than anything, I’m living in the moment. I really want Americans and all of us to be less afraid of death. Know that it’s a passage, but don’t go to the funeral before the day of the funeral. While you’re living, live.”
Today, having defied her grim odds, Valerie joins The Doctors onstage to share how new treatments, including alternative therapies such as acupuncture, as well as staying active and remaining positive in the face of adversity have contributed to her astonishing survival.
“You don’t give up. You listen to your doctors,” she says. She adds that the unwavering support of her loving husband, Tony, has been immeasurably important to her, as well.
Valerie is keeping busy, too. She recently lent her voice to a new film, Banner On the Moon, which documents one woman’s battle with a rare, terminal disease and her inspiring efforts to raise awareness for the National Organization of Rare Disorders. The woman, Cindy Abbot, was diagnosed in 2007 with Wegener’s granulomatosis, a rare inflammatory disease in which the body’s immune system destroys the blood vessels. Since then, she has become the first woman to both climb to the top of Mount Everest and cross the finish line of the Alaskan Iditarod.
“So, if you’re going to bed at night and asking yourself, ‘What’s holding me back?’ remember Cindy’s story,” ER physician Dr. Travis Stork says.
Hear more from Valerie Harper and Cindy Abbott, and watch a clip from Banner On the Moon: