NEW YORK (Reuters) - Actress Valerie Harper, who disclosed last week that she has a rare, incurable brain cancer, said in an interview broadcast on Monday that her life expectancy is anywhere from a week to several years.
Harper, 73, who won four Emmy Awards for portraying Rhoda Morgenstern on television, said on NBC's "Today" show that the reality of her illness hit home, "when I heard the word 'incurable.'
"'Incurable' is a tough word, so is 'terminal,'" she said with a laugh.
She said her doctor told her she could live anywhere from a week, if for example she suffered a seizure, to a few months or even for several years, saying he had patients who had lived much longer than the prognosis.
Harper was a staple on U.S. television in the 1970s, first as the brassy Rhoda on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." The character proved so popular that Harper was given her own spinoff show, "Rhoda."
She revealed her cancer diagnosis last week in a People magazine interview.
"A lot of folks are calling (asking), 'Can I come by the house?' 'Are you in a wheelchair?', because they hear it as a death sentence, which it may be," Harper said on "Today." "But I'm not dying until I do. I promise I won't."
As to holding out hope against a seemingly grim fate, Harper, her voice hoarse due to a bout of laryngitis, said that beyond being hopeful "I have an intention to live each day's moments, fully."
Harper recently completed a tour promoting her new autobiography "I, Rhoda" and starred on Broadway as Tallulah Bankhead in "Looped," for which she won a Tony Award nomination.
(Writing by Chris Michaud; Editing by Patricia Reaney and Bill Trott)