Valerie Harper Inspires

I am so touched by Valerie Harper. As I am sure my readers are aware , not only is Valerie an incredibly accomplished actress, but her warmth and grace has been so touching during this terrible diagnosis of leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, a rare condition that happens when cancer cells invade into the fluid-filled membrane that surrounds the brain. She has been told by her doctors she will likely be able to survive about three months.

I had the good fortune to meet Valerie at a hair salon that I used to go to. She was always down to earth and always friendly while at the salon to others. When I thought her appointment was ahead of mine she told me it was not and that I was to take my turn.

valerie-harper-00-300She has bravely gone on television, visiting The Today Show, The Doctors, The Talk, Good Morning America , and spoken with People Magazine. Each interview had her glowing with life accepting her diagnosis when you know she is in shock. It is so wonderful to see such a loving relationship with her husband.

She is also a lung cancer survivor. She never smoked. So many lung cancer survivor’s never  smoked or quit a very long time before their diagnosis. I think that lung cancer is the cruelest of all cancers because so many people assume it’s only from smoking and I know many people who have had or are living with lung cancer and they are all non smokers. It’s a disease that deserves no blame. There is a campaign around lung cancer where we attach the words, “no stigma”. Meanwhile Valerie caught the lung cancer early and survived it.

Now she faces such a difficult diagnosis. We see her looking healthy and beautiful and as so many with metastatic cancer do. People are surprised because they not look as though they are very ill especially at the beginning of their diagnosis. Different cancers at different metastatic stages are like that and each one has a different set of statistics for how much time a patient has a chance of living. With my close friend Li when she was metastatic we often talked about living through the dying and making the most of the time we have. Like Valerie we wanted quality of life, not quantity.

There is a wonderful article by Donna Kaufman in I Village that talks about the 10 most inspiring things we’ve learned from Valerie Harper that I am going to copy and paste here. Valerie’s courage and willingness to share this private part of her life with all of us teaching us so much is just beautiful.

The 10 Most Inspiring Things We’ve Learned from Valerie Harper

1. Don’t blame yourself for tragedy. “If you die, you’re not a failure,” Harper said on Today. ‘You’re just somebody who had cancer. And that’s the outcome.”

2. Live in this moment, right now. “I’m not dying until I do,” Harper told Today. “I have an intention to live each moment fully.”

3. Remember that death is part of life. “I really want Americans, all of us, to be less afraid of death,” Harper said on The Doctors. “Know that it’s a passage, but don’t go to the funeral before the funeral. While you’re living, live.”

4. Let yourself be sad — but stay hopeful. “I don’t mean this to be Pollyanna! I allow myself the grief,” Harper told Today‘s Savannah Guthrie, when asked if she ever felt sad. “What I’m saying is keep your consciousness, your thoughts open to infinite possibility and keep yourself open to miracles.”

5. Don’t give in to despair when there’s more pasta to eat. When Harper first heard her diagnosis, she said on The Doctors, “I broke down. I absolutely sobbed. I let myself do it. Then I said, ‘Okay, you’ve been the drama queen. Now get over it and make the pasta.'”

6. Deal with your battles in the way that makes sense to you. When one of the Doctors asked Harper why she was spending her final days on a press tour, she responded, “Dr. Travis, this is not for everyone. This is my way of dealing with it.”

7. Don’t live in denial. “I’m trouble,” Harper admitted in a video message for People, “but when the smoke clears, I’ll be standing. Until I’m not. And I’m ready for that, too.”

8. Don’t forget to live just because you’re dying. “‘Incurable’ is a tough word. A lot of people were calling — ‘Can I come by the house?’ ‘Are you in a wheel chair?’ — because they hear it as this death sentence,” Harper said on Today. “Which it may be. But I’m not dying until I do. I promise I won’t.”

9. Never be afraid of what’s next. “I don’t know what’s ahead, but I’m ready for it. Onward!” Harper told fans in her People message. “I love you. And know that I’m okay. I am okay on this venture.”

10. Keep your loved ones close. Harper says she’ll be spending her last months with her husband and daughter while she undergoes treatments to try to slow the progress of her disease. “My doctor said it’s incurable — so far,” Harper said on GMA. “And I love that possibility. We all need to live in infinite possibility.”

Valerie speaks of how important it is not to blames oneself for a cancer diagnosis. She talks about living in the moment and not focusing on the dying. She says to deal with your battles in your way. For her it was going on Television and speaking to her fans. Most important she speaks of keeping family close. Even though she knows that her disease is “incurable”, she still lives in a world of “infinite possibility.”

Her message is one of so much hope for so many that have faced incredible obstacles in their lives. I just love everything about Valerie!

12 Replies to “Valerie Harper Inspires”

  1. Since my entire life’s work for the past almost twenty years has been in providing information for people with cancer on natural therapies that can be used as integrative care with conventional treatments (complementary) or alternative medicines that can be used AFTER or instead of conventional, I am super-sad.
    Were I to have the funds and ability that Valerie Harper has, I would NOT just accept a diagnosis of incurable. That’s just me. But I would go to, just as an example – Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski of Houston, TX who has a clinic, patented treatments (phase III clinical trials registered/approved by FDA) and great success particularly with brain tumors of all kinds. There are other alternative possibilities. Over the years I have met many people who did NO conventional therapies at all. They don’t get interviewed or counted in the stats. Someone like me, chemically-sensitive at diagnosis, and unable (no less unwilling) to take chemotherapy or radiation, chose to explore what could be done. Still here 20 years later. To me ‘incurable’ has always meant that the conventional big 3 aren’t enough so it is TIME to TRY alternatives.

    So her road is not the one I would choose. I wish her the absolute best in her journey.


    1. Ann I respect your opinion and approach to Valerie’s diagnosis as another way of approaching her journey. Valerie Harper’s life has been as an actress who has many fans that love her and admire her work. Since her entire life’s work for the past 20 years has not been devoted to complementary or alternative medicines, I have to respect that her body and mind are in shock and she is dealing with this diagnosis by reaching out to her fans and doing interviews as her way of coping with the cards she has been dealt. Perhaps by reaching out she may come across someone like you who will take the time to explain that there are alternative therapies that she can explore which might be successful for her. What I care about the most is that she be respected for the choices that work best for her at this very difficult time. I know because of your life’s work you would take a completely different path, yet you know that with any cancer diagnosis everyone’s mind, body, and spirit has the right to choose what treatment they think will be best for them. I can only say that my respect and admiration go to both of you and I am sure once Valerie gets a minute to let all of this sink in, she will choose what works best for her and her family. Thank you for expressing your professional opinion and opening the discussion to other ideas. I suspect her being so public with her diagnosis will hopefully help her attract the best approach that will work for her with this disease.


    1. Thank you Marie for the great feedback. My admiration for Valerie has also grown because of her incredible strength while facing such a difficult road ahead. XoXo – Susan


  2. Oh my gosh, Susan. This post blew me away. I have always LOVED Valerie Harper, and after your post, I love her all the more. I had no idea she had lung cancer. Yes, cancer and the blame game. You are right about lung cancer; everyone assumes that someone with this disease smoked. Lots of non-smokers who have/had lung cancer abound. What a great fortune to meet Ms. Harper at a hair salon. Thank you for this inspirational post on an inspiratioinal person.


    1. It really is refreshing to see Valerie facing such a difficult diagnosis and be brave enough to let the world know she is living in the moment. With cancer there is so much blame and it is so refreshing to see Valerie enter the unknown with so much positive energy. We all have no idea how much time she will be with us, but her ability to be present in the moment is so refreshing.


  3. Love her honesty, inspiration and hope, especially the concept of “infinite possibility.” Glad you also addressed the lung cancer stigma. I also know someone now who has lung cancer who never smoked a day in his life. Can you imagine everything we’ve gone through, and adding the layer of judgment from other people of it supposedly being your own fault? That may be the worst of all cancer myths.


    1. Yes the stigma around lung cancer is horrible. I can’t imagine someone putting judgement on anyone with any type of cancer. Yet I know there are people out there that do, and like you I have a very close friend who has stage IV lung cancer now. I really wish we had more progress when it comes to all metastatic cancers. Meanwhile, thanks for commenting on my post about Valerie. With my frustration at not seeing a cure for all cancers it’s so nice to be inspired by Valerie.


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: