Valerie (Rhoda) Harper: Don’t Live In Fear of Dying

Valerie Harper

“We are all terminal”, actress, Valerie Harper has said after hearing that her rare form of brain cancer is regressing.  “Don’t live in fear of dying.”

Harper, best known for her role as “Rhoda” in both The Mary Tyler Moore Show and her spin-off series in the 1970’s “Rhoda”, was given a death sentence several months ago with a diagnosis of a rare form of brain cancer, called Leptomeningeal Carcinomantosis, which is a cancer of the membrane that surrounds the brain.

The 74 year old actress was given just 3 months to live but, has been responding to treatment for the incurable brain cancer.  The cancer has regressed and is “almost in remission”, her neuro-oncologist Dr. Jeremy Rudnick has said.

“She’s defying the odds” Rudnick said.

She’s now expected to live beyond Christmas of this year and is planning on going back on stage in 2014.

Harper credits Rudnick for having pushed her to “live”.  He urged Harper to get back to work and face the oven.  That is exactly what Harper did by taking on a stint on the most recent season of Dancing With The Stars.

Harper, a non-smoker, had previously fought and won a battle with lung cancer back in 2009.  However, it’s believed that her current form of brain cancer is a relative of her former lung cancer.

“I don’t have brain cancer,” Harper stated during her stay on DWTS.  “I have lung cancer.  I keep telling the cancer to quit killing the host.”

Harper admitted that she cries and every headache is a fear that the cancer is taking over and wonders whether this is the end.  However, she has stated that she tries not to dwell on death.  She states that it’s there but, it doesn’t control her.

Valerie Harper Tony Cacciotti

Harper married Tony Cacciotti in 1987 and they have a daughter, Cristina whom they adopted when Cristina was four years old.  Cacciotti and Harper have been happily married ever since.

Cacciotti is said to be having a hard time with his wife’s diagnosis and prognosis but, still there to back Harper and pushing her to go on living Life.

It’s hard to remember that there are always people far worse off than we are when we are facing personal struggles but, the fact remains that no matter how hard our fights may feel, there are millions around this world who are facing something far worse.

One has to wonder about the human spirit and its tenacity to hang onto Life with both hands, right down to digging in our fingernails for the most part.  It’s akin to the old saying, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.”  Harper is clinging onto every moment of Life that she has and considering every week, every moment, every month she gets now as icing on a cake.  It’s no longer taken for granted that Life just is.  There is no time for her to sit and revel in the small pieces of anger, bitterness or put-offs that Life often deals all of us.  It’s pure joy for her to open her eyes every morning and hope that she has another full day ahead of her to live.

It’s easier for everyone to get caught up in the small things in Life that bring us troubles to dwell on but, the reality is, we are all “terminal” as Harper has said.  Even the healthiest of us, don’t know whether we’ve got the rest of today to live.  We simply take it for granted that there will be another day, another year, another decade another several decades…but, do we?  None of us really know that for sure, not even those of us who have a clean bill of health.

Not to be morbid but, rather the opposite of it, we all have to realize that we should be living each and every day as though every moment is a precious gift.  We need to remember that every moment is something to make special…in spite of the traffic jam we’re stuck in, the annoying co-worker or boss that is making our days miserable and filling our heads with nasty thoughts.  All of those things are nothing by comparison to knowing you’re going to die and yet, we are all going to die at some point.  It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.  That’s something that most of us hope to not know in advance and something we should live each day, trying to forget.

As Harper has so wisely said, “don’t live in fear of dying”.  We just need to live to the best of our ability.

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