Valerie Harper not ‘cancer free,’ but ‘cautiously optimistic’


Valerie Harper might not be “cancer free,” as a headline screamed Wednesday, but she is “cautiously optimistic” and hopeful about her current health situation.

The actress, 74, issued a statement clarifying a quote that had appeared in this week’s Closer Weekly. Her “cancer free” comment was actually part of a larger anecdote specifically about the results of a full-body scan, she told the magazine, not about her terminal leptomeningeal carcinomatosis.

“I was relaying a story where my doctor had told me that in his 30-year practice, I was the only lepto patient he has seen without other cancers already present,” Harper told Closer Weekly on Thursday.


“I had just had my yearly full-body scan to determine if this sneaky cancer had migrated to other parts of my body,” and the results were great. The disease had not spread.

“Right now, what I am is cautiously optimistic about my present condition and I have hope for the future,” she said in a separate statement released Wednesday afternoon through the Hallmark Channel, home of “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” which will feature Harper as a guest star in its first two episodes. The series premieres Sunday.

The woman who famously played Rhoda Mogenstern in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Rhoda,” revealed her diagnosis in March 2013. “Lepto,” as she refers to it, is a metastatic cancer, meaning it likely traveled to the fluid-filled membranes surrounding her brain from the lung cancer she was diagnosed with in 2009.

The news did get her and husband Tony Cacciotti to make funeral plans and draw up a will so that their children wouldn’t have to make those decisions for them, she said Wednesday morning to Howard Stern (via ABC News). She told the radio host that she wasn’t afraid of death.

“Your spirit is what animates you,” she said. “[Your body] is just kind of a boarding house.”

But for now, it seems, death isn’t hogging space in her mind’s front row.

“I was supposed to be gone before last Easter,” Harper said Wednesday on the “Today” show. “But when you say ‘supposed to be,’ the doctors just give their best guesstimate. What I have is incurable and terminal, but guess what? Not today.”


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