Emmy winner Valerie Harper, given three to six months to live after a diagnosis of brain cancer in January, appears close to remission, her doctor told NBC News.
On Thursday's's "Today" show preview of a one-hour special airing Sept. 19, Dr. Jeremy Rudnick, Harper's neuro-oncologist, told the actress, her producer husband Tony Cacciotti and newswoman Meredith Vieira after a June MRI scan, "I'd say that we're getting pretty close to a remission. . . . It defies the odds."
In an interview conducted since then, Harper, 74, observes: "We're all gonna die. But because I have a finite time, or have been told so by my doctors, I just want to live every moment to the fullest." Despite her initial prognosis, she has filmed an upcoming guest spot on "Hot in Cleveland" as well as a TV-movie role and reportedly has joined the new season of "Dancing With the Stars."
She goes on to say: "In the beginning I felt terrible. When I first had the news I thought, 'Oh, my God, not me.' And then I [thought], 'Why not me?' Lots of people are stuck with much worse than me."
At one point with her husband, Harper notes that her disease -- leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, a rare form of cancer in which malignant cells invade membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord -- is "not curable. There's no question, it has to be managed." Cacciotti adds emotionally, "Yeah, but going from having three months to live or less, we're into our sixth month and now there's even hope beyond that."
"We're lookin' at Christmas!" Harper answers brightly.
The actress, best known as Rhoda Morgenstern on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," tells Vieira, "Spontaneous remission lives as a possibility . . . [and] I think infinite possibility is beautiful in every area."