Valerie Harper is continuing to live her life to the fullest after going public with her diagnosis of terminal brain cancer.
The TV icon visited Access Hollywood Live on Tuesday, where she chatted with Billy Bush and Kit Hoover about her fight to continue living.
“I’m feeling good and I wanted people to see that and to know that… and telling people, ‘Don’t go to the funeral before the day of the funeral. Live each day, each moment even,’” Valerie, 73, said.
The Emmy-winning actress was diagnosed with leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, a rare form of cancer that affects the fluid-filled membrane surrounding the brain, in January.
“I have great doctors and I have a wonderful, wonderful husband, who has been there just incredibly,” she continued, referring to her spouse, husband Tony Cacciotti. “I thought I need to share this now – and it’s in the brain area – and I didn’t want to start having problems with speech or anything else.”
The actress is using her illness as an opportunity to help others facing medical scares.
“I want [the public] to know that I’m there and I’m fighting this thing and that death is a part of life and it’s almost a privilege or advantage to know because a lot of us push death away, don’t look at it, don’t want to think about it… You shouldn’t spend time morosely looking at it, but you do have to face it,” she explained. “None of us are getting out of this alive, we are all terminal. It just depends when.”
Valerie has been busy tying up the loose ends in her life, while still enjoying her time with her loved ones.
“I’m cleaning out closets, I’m getting rid of junk. I took the Emmys out of the garage and brought them into the house to make sure I know where they were. I’m going to the movies, I’m cooking dinner, I’m running, I’m lifting weights, I’m doing everything I did because of [my] wonderful team [of doctors],” she continued.
“I’m living a normal life and the new era of cancer is not, ‘Kill the cells! Kill the cells!’ and you ruin the person, it’s new. It’s managing the cancer… You can die with cancer, but not of it, that’s really true,” Valerie said.
The actress and author of “I, Rohda” is even eyeing job offers.
“I’ve been asked to do some jobs, which is wonderful and I would be pleased to do it,” she said.
Despite her extremely positive outlook, Valerie admitted that she’s still facing her fears daily.
“I get terrified at night sometimes… and if I feel like crying, I do. If I feel like walking around the house taking deep breaths, I do,” she said. “It’s not crazy to be afraid of death, no one wants to embrace it, I’m just saying, don’t let your fear of death rob your living now. That’s your real key, stay in the moment the best you can.”
One of her greatest fears is leaving behind husband Tony, whom she has been married to since 1987.
“He is the love of my life and I don’t want to leave him, but I have to face what may be ahead,” she told Billy and Kit. “He’s my beloved, beloved heart, he’s just my heart.”
-- Jesse Spero
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