The Talk: Valerie Harper On Death, Rhoda & Brain Cancer Treatment


The Talk: Valerie Harper

For years, Valerie Harper entertained millions in The Mary Tyler Moore Show and her spinoff, Rhoda. Early in 2013, Harper announced her terminal brain cancer diagnosis, and she was a special guest on The Talk.

The Talk: Rhoda Morgenstern

An overwhelmed Harper took in a standing ovation from the audience. She said she had no idea how beloved she was, but the response to news of her diagnosis has stunned her.


The Talk: Valerie Harper On Death, Rhoda & Brain Cancer Treatment

The Talk featured a conversation with Valerie Harper on death, the prospects for her brain cancer treatment, and being beloved as the character of Rhoda. (Helga Esteb /

Valerie Harper said she thinks fans believe they know her, because of their connection to her longtime character, Rhoda Morgenstern. Sharon Osbourne wondered why she wanted to tell her story now.

The Talk: Valerie Harper Cancer Diagnosis

Her memoir, I, Rhoda, ended with her Tony nomination in 2010 at age 70. Since that time, she survived lung cancer, reminding everyone that early detection is key. She praised Dr Robert McKenna, who performed visually assisted thoracic surgery to remove her lung cancer.


Harper was cancer-free for a few years, and now her new brain cancer is confined to the meninges area of her brain, which is difficult to reach in surgery.

Her queasy symptoms during rehearsal for a play were confusing at first. At first, Harper thought because of her age that she may have had a stroke.

When Harper had to drop out of the touring production, Stephanie Powers stepped in to take on the role and keep the show going.

The Talk: Valerie Harper Cancer Treatment

After the initial conversations with friends and family, Harper has focused on savoring each day. Harper compared protective layers in the brain, the blood-brain barrier, to saran wrap. Because this barrier is designed to protect the brain, chemotherapy has trouble penetrating it to treat brain cancer.

Now her doctors have biopsied her cancer to create a custom designed drug in an attempt to treat the cancer that is now located in her brain.

The Talk: Valerie Harper Daughter Christina

Harper’s adopted daughter, Christina, joined the ladies to talk about how the family is coping with Valerie’s diagnosis. Christina fought back tears and recalled how much love and light her mother brought into her life.

“She’s been so open about life and death,” Christina said, adding that she also lost her birth mother to cancer in recent years. “She’s so full of life. How can you look at death so angrily and so upset when this woman’s showing you the way?”

The Talk: Valerie Harper On Death

Harper said that you have to let yourself cry or process your emotions. Give yourself the space to feel grief and fear. “Experience it, because then you’re lightened up. You can be in the moment now,” she said. “Don’t have the funeral until the day of the funeral. Live today.”

The Talk: Valerie Harper Stage Dedication

The Talk is now filmed on Stage 16, the same soundstage where Valerie Harper filmed her sitcom Rhoda. Julie Chen and the ladies presented her with a bronze plaque to remind visitors to the stage of its historical significance.


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