Valerie Harper, who, along with Mary Tyler Moore, helped usher in an era of female-led television sitcoms, has been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and has as little as three months to live, according to a new cover story in People. “A battery of tests revealed she has leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, a rare condition that occurs when cancer cells spread into the fluid-filled membrane surrounding the brain,” the story reports.
Harper, 73, is widely known for playing Rhoda Morgenstern, the best friend of Moore’s character on The Mary Tyler Moore Show from 1970 until 1974, when Harper scored the lead in her own spin-off show, Rhoda, which ran 110 episodes between 1974 and 1978. In 1986, she enjoyed a career resurgence as the star of family sitcom Valerie.
Since then, Harper has been a mainstay on television, making guest appearances and landing multi-episode story arcs. She’s recently appeared on the critically-acclaimed Drop Dead Diva and in January she was a guest star on The Simpsons. Harper battled and beat lung cancer – she was never a smoker – in 2009. “I don’t think of dying,” Harper tells People. “I think of being here now.”