Valerie Harper Diagnosed With Terminal Brain Cancer

Valerie Harper Diagnosed With Terminal Brain Cancer

Actress Valerie Harper makes a heartbreaking announcement that she's been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and may only have three months to live.

The headline on the cover of the new People magazine out Friday: "Valerie Harper's Brave Goodbye."

The 73-year-old TV legend tells the magazine the diagnosis, "Hit me like a sledgehammer. Incurable is such a concise word. I was terrified."

People magazine's Kate Coyne told INSIDE EDITION, "Valerie is preparing her funeral. She has talked about what she wants done with her remains she's gone. She's really handling the specifics of what will happen to her after she dies. It's amazing she's been able to do that without falling apart."

Harper says last August she started experiencing strange symptoms, like tingling in her body and sudden vomiting. Six weeks ago, she appeared on Good Morning America to promote her new memoir and described how the right side of her jaw had gone numb.

"It was as if I had novocaine. I thought, 'What the heck is happening?' " said Harper.

What she didn't reveal on the morning show was that just six days earlier, she'd received the shocking diagnosis that she had inoperable brain cancer.

Her secret anguish may have gotten to her when her TV buddy, Mary Tyler Moore, surprised her by calling in.

Moore said, "I just want to wish you well with the book tour. I'm sure you're going on one of those."

Harper tearfully said, "I know you do. You always have wished me well."

Harper's brain cancer is called Leptomeningeal Carcinomatosis.  

Dr. Leonard Farber told INSIDE EDITION, "It's cancer cells that have infiltrated the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord."

In 2009, Harper beat lung cancer.

Dr. Farber said, "Leptomeningeal Carcinomatosis arises from prior cancers. For Valerie, most likely it arose from her known diagnosis of lung cancer."

In spite of the dire diagnosis, Valerie Harper is fighting for her life and has decided to undergo chemotherapy.

"I have a fighting chance until I'm gone," she told People magazine.

America first got to know the beloved actress on the Mary Tyler Moore show in 1970. The sassy character Rhoda Morgenstern became so popular it earned Harper four Emmys and her own spinoff, Rhoda.

When Rhoda got married in 1974 it became a major TV event, with more than 52 million viewers tuning in.

Tributes to Harper are pouring in. Her Mary Tyler Moore co-star Ed Asner said, "I have every confidence in the world that she will shock the hell out of us and survive to keep functioning as the great talent and human that she is."

And Jason Bateman, who played her son on Valerie, said, "Valerie is someone that I've learned a great deal from. Not just comedically, but also in her ability to put whomever approached her, or worked with her, completely at ease with a laugh and an energy that's intoxicating."
Now, Harper is surrounded by her husband of 26 years, Tony, and her daughter Christina.

Coyne said, "There's actually, for her, something of a silver lining to the fact that she knows what's coming, and she knows she has to say goodbye now, and she's getting that opportunity."

The pluck that endeared Valerie Harper to America is the very quality that she's relying on in these, her final days.

"Life is amazing," she tells People magazine. "Live it to the fullest. Stay as long as you can."