Valerie Harper reveals terminal cancer; famous friends react

Valerie Harper, who played Rhoda Morgenstern on TV’s “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and its spinoff “Rhoda,” has terminal cancer, the actress revealed Wednesday morning. And through the day, friends and fans expressed their support.

Harper has the rare condition leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, which occurs when cancer spreads to the fluid-filled membranes that surround the brain, People reported in a cover story due out later this week. The 73-year-old, a nonsmoker, in 2009 battled lung cancer, which according to the National Institutes of Health is one of the cancers most often linked to involvement of those membranes.

A day before going public, Harper called former costar Moore to share the news, People said. Moore, 76, said Wednesday that she was “absolutely devastated” over her friend’s situation. Moore, incidentally, had surgery in May 2011 to remove a benign tumor from the membrane surrounding her own brain.

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Cloris Leachman, also an “MTM Show” alum, reached out on Twitter. “My longtime friendship w/ @ValerieHarper has been 1 of the gr8est gifts of my life. I’m here 4 any/everything she may need one day at a time.”


Tweeted Larry King: “I’ve known Valerie Harper for years- enjoyed intv’ing her & being in her company-wishing her strength & good thoughts.”

Hoda Kotb of the “Today” show said, “Hi @ValerieHarper ... @KathieLGifford and I are sending prayers your way #warmwave,” with cohost Gifford adding later, “Lord bless you, Valerie.”

Marie Osmond commended Harper’s bravery in making the announcement. “It’s just like @valerieharper to go forward with grace and appreciation,” she wrote. “My prayers are with you, Valerie.”

Wendy Williams and Andy Cohen sent prayers, while Nia Vardalos and “SNL” alum Rachel Dratch noted that Harper had been an inspiration to them as actresses.

“Valerie Harper, please know you will always be every awkward girl’s mentor. Love, Toula,” wrote Vardalos.

“You were the ultimate comedy role model to me when I was growing up - the quintessential ‘best friend!’ Sending you love...” said Dratch.

Harper got the news Jan. 15. With an estimated three months left to live, she told People, “I don’t think of dying. I think of being here now.”


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