Valerie Harper: An Energetic Will to Fight in the Face of Cancer

Valerie Harper Cancer DiagnosisWhat would you do if you were told you had an incurable disease and possibly only months to live? Actress Valerie Harper recently had to ask herself that question. This past January, Harper, best known for her role as Rhoda Morgenstern in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, was told she has leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, a rare form of incurable brain cancer.

Doctors told Harper, who already has battled lung cancer, that she could have as little as three months to live. Since going public with her news back in March, Harper has mentioned in several media appearances that she has gained strength from opening up about her battle with cancer. In an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan, Harper displayed great courage and an even greater attitude when asked about her devastating diagnosis. “There’s other ways to handle it than just sit on the couch and accept.”  Through her actions, Harper has demonstrated that she is doing anything but ‘sit on the couch and accept.’

Now, eight months since her diagnosis, Harper has yet to slow down. Instead, she is doing book tours and TV appearances, exercising and even starring in an upcoming TV movie, set to air January 2014.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of willpower is “energetic determination,” while the Cambridge American English Dictionary defines it as “the ability to control your own thoughts and behavior, especially in difficult situations.”

A cancer diagnosis affects each patient and his or her family members differently. Some people may enter a state of severe depression, while others go about their normal activities while only stopping to receive treatment. For Harper, energetic determination is the key to making sure every day is the best it can be.

What are your thoughts on Valerie’s reaction to her earth-shattering diagnosis? Do you think her willpower has anything to do with her outlook on life, or could it be her coping mechanism?

At Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, we understand that life after a cancer diagnosis can be anything but ordinary. Because of this understanding, we have developed our survivorship program to meet the needs of cancer survivors at any stage of cancer, from diagnosis to post-treatment. For more information on the Winship Survivorship Program, email survivorship@emoryhealthcare.org or call 404-778-0572.

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