Actress Valerie Harper has terminal brain cancer and was told by doctors she has as little as three months left to live.
"I was stunned," Harper, 73, told People. "And in the next minute I thought, 'This could draw more attention to cancer research.' I think there's an opportunity to help people. I don't think of dying. I think of being here now."
Valerie is best known for playing Rhoda Morgenstern on the 1970s TV series "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and its spinoff, "Rhoda." In 2011, Harper's co-star, Mary Tyler Moore, underwent surgery to remove a benign brain tumor.
Harper was given her brain-cancer diagnosis on Jan. 15 after tests revealed she has a rare condition called leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, which occurs when cancer cells spread into the membrane surrounding the brain.
Valerie, who battled lung cancer in 2009, revealed in her memoir "I, Rhoda" that she chose to keep her illness a secret because she didn't want to be pitied. “I didn’t want to be pitied," she wrote. "I wanted to move on.”
Harper says she was shocked by her lung-cancer diagnosis because she had always led a healthy lifestyle and never smoked. “My mind started to go crazy," she wrote. "What had I done to bring this on myself? I didn’t drink. I’d never smoked."
Valerie's mom Iva died from lung cancer in 1988 at the age of 71.