Valerie Harper on why she joined 'Dancing With the Stars': 'Why not?'

Valerie Harper's public announcement in March of her terminal cancer diagnosis has generated an enormous amount of public interest and sympathy. But the former "Rhoda" actress has not taken her diagnosis (or recent discovery that she's close to remission) lying down. A former dancer, she's bounced back by competing on "Dancing With the Stars," and is now the subject of a new documentary hosted by Meredith Vieira, "Valerie's Story," which airs on NBC Thursday night.

Harper appeared on TODAY Thursday morning via remote linkup, while Vieira sat down alongside TODAY's Savannah Guthrie and Matt Lauer to preview the big story, which shows Harper at home with her family as she fights the disease.

"It's incurable, but we're moving in the right direction," said Harper. "Each subsequent brain scan has been an improvement, and they don't expect that with this leptomeningeal carcinomatosis. ... I'm really happy with the way things are going."

Video: Exclusive bonus clip from "Valerie's Story: A Meredith Vieira Special"

The 74-year-old also addressed comments some skeptics have made about her simultaneous cancer diagnosis and ability to hoof it on "Dancing."

"There are so many people living with cancer and even dying with it, but not of it," she said. "So I thought this is a good chance to do it. Do 'Dancing With the Stars' since my doctors have told me to exercise and not to worry about any physical problem with the kind of cancer I have, I thought, 'Why not do it?'"

Still, all that dancing is playing heck with at least one body part. "The problem I'm having is my knee, you know, not the cancer!" she chuckled. 

But she takes heart from what her former dance teacher once told her: "Never stop moving."

"Valerie's Story" airs Thursday at 10 p.m. on NBC.

Valerie Harper

Image: Valerie Harper Book Signing For "I, Rhoda"
David Livingston

The Emmy Award-winning star of "Rhoda" and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" boasts an acting career that dates back to the 1950s.


Join the TODAY Food Club NOW for a chance to win the Ultimate Cookware Giveaway.