'I’m Not Dying Until I Do': Valerie Harper Stands Up to Brain Cancer

Image: 'I’m Not Dying Until I Do': Valerie Harper Stands Up to Brain Cancer Valerie Harper (R) and daughter Cristina Cacciotti in 2012.
(Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Kinetic Content)

Tuesday, 12 Mar 2013 12:19 PM

By Michael Mullins

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Emmy Award-winning actress Valerie Harper, who revealed last week that she has terminal brain cancer with only has a few months left to live, said Monday that she feels good and is counting her blessings while hoping for a miracle.

"I’m not dying until I do," Harper told Savannah Guthrie on NBC’s “Today” show Monday. "I have an intention to live each moment fully."

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Known for her character Rhoda Morgenstern on the 1970s sitcoms "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "Rhoda," Harper made light of the situation.

"There is so much love out there for me, even (from) people who didn’t like (Rhoda’s) accent," the 73-year-old told Guthrie.

Harper also discussed how she felt right after being diagnosed with the hosts of "The Doctors," a daytime talk show that features a panel of medical experts who discuss health-related topics.

"I broke down. I absolutely sobbed. I let myself do it. Then I said, 'OK, you’ve been the drama queen. Now get over it and do the pasta," she said.

The award-winning Harper added that she hoped that discussing cancer publicly would help others with similar diagnoses overcome their fears.

"To be alive and hear that I impacted so many lives in positive and fun ways is so great for me," she said. "I want Americans and all of us to be less afraid of death. And know that it’s a passage, but don’t go to the funeral before the day of the funeral. While you're living, live."

Harper's husband of 34 years is Tony Cacciotti. The two have one child.

Unwilling to accept the diagnosis, Cacciotti said they went for a second opinion.

"I still don’t want to believe it," he said on "The Doctors."

At the show's end, Harper shared final words of advice for the audience.

"Find your contribution, giving someone a smile, whatever it is. That's where we need to live together," she said. "Embrace yourself. Know you're perfect, even through all your flaws."

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Harper plans to attend a White House ceremony honoring the Nobel laureate and "banker to the poor," Dr. Muhammad Yunus on April 17.

"I’m hoping I’ll be around. I really hope I can make it," she said, fighting back tears.

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