(USA TODAY) Here's another reminder that doctors aren't always right and even "terminal" cancer isn't always a death sentence: Beloved TV actress Valerie Harper, who last year announced she had only months to live, now says she is "cancer-free."
"I'm now the poster child for not believing everything I'm told," Harper told Closer Weekly.
No kidding. In March of last year, when she was 73, friends and fans were shocked to learn Harper's diagnosis of a type of brain cancer, which she discussed freely in an emotional round of interviews in print and on TV. She was upbeat, saying she didn't think about dying, she thought about living for the moment.
Tests revealed she has leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, a rare condition that occurs when cancer cells spread into the fluid-filled membrane surrounding the brain. Harper opted for chemotherapy treatment but her doctors told her she could have a little as three months left to live.
A year later, "I'm absolutely cancer-free!" says Harper, now 74 and best known for her role on Rhoda. "My last scans have been positive, and my doctors are very happy. (The oncologist) looked at the scans and said, 'Oh my God, Valerie, this is very encouraging!' "
In the last year, Harper also went back to work, cast in a new TV movie in August.
So what happened? Doctors rely on experience, she says, and they know that most people with this cancer die.
Is she in remission? "My doctor doesn't use that term. He likes to say, 'I give you a treatment, and it's either responsive or non-responsive — and you are having a phenomenal response.'"
She takes a lot of pills, all at once and once a week in what's called a "pulse dose."
"They can be difficult, but I try to sleep them off," she says. But she only has to see her doctor every eight weeks.
"There may come a time when I'm not feeling good," she told the magazine. "But then again, that time may never come!"
Closer Weekly is on newsstands now.