Valerie Harper, Rhoda From 'Mary Tyler Moore,' Diagnosed With Terminal Brain Cancer, Has Only Months To Live

on March 06 2013 12:34 PM

Valerie Harper, the television actress who played Rhoda Morgenstern in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” has revealed that she has terminal brain cancer and has only a few months left to live.  

Harper, 73, was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer on Jan. 15, she reveals in an exclusive interview with People. Follow-up tests revealed Harper has leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, a rare type of cancer that occurs in the meninges, thin membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord.

In the interview with People, Harper said she only has a few months to live, with doctors telling her it may be as little as three months. Harper previously battled lung cancer in 2009 and remains positive despite the grim news, telling People, “I don't think of dying, I think of being here now.”

Harper is most famous for her role as Rhoda in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Rhoda was so popular that Harper later starred in her spinoff show, “Rhoda.” Harper has continued to work in television over the course of four decades, starring in the 1980’s television series “Valerie” while also making appearances 0n “Melrose Place,” “Touched By An Angel” and “Sex in the City” in the 1990s and “That 70’s Show” and Desperate Housewives” in the 2000s. Most recently Harper appeared in “Drop Dead Divas” and provided a voiceover for “The Simpsons” in the episode “A Test Before Trying” which premiered on Jan. 13.

Leptomeningeal carcinomatosis is a condition where cancerous cells are found in the arachnoid mater and pia mater, the second innermost and innermost layers of the meninges. The pia mater fits closely to the brain’s contours while the arachnoid mater fits more loosely and acts as a cushion. The outermost layer, the dia mater, acts as the protective cushion and is attached the skull. A Johns Hopkins study published in Cancer Treatment Reviews in 1999 discusses the rare condition, saying leptomeningeal carcinomatosis occurs in 5 percent of individuals with cancer and the “disorder is being diagnosed with increasing frequency as patients live longer and as neuro-imaging studies improve. The most common cancers to involve the leptomeninges are breast cancer, lung cancer, and melanomas.” The prognosis for survival is grim: without treatment life expectancy is four to six weeks, with treatment three to six months.