Valerie Harper Hopes 'Dancing With the Stars' Stint Is 'Inspiring'

Valerie Harper - P 2013
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Valerie Harper - P 2013

Valerie Harper isn't letting terminal cancer keep her from dancing, particularly now that her condition has gotten better.

Harper's doctor revealed last week on NBC that her leptomeningeal carcinomatosis is "pretty close to remission," according to a recent MRI.

While this doesn't mean the Rhoda actress, who'd previously been told she had three to six months to live, has been cured, the fact that her disease is responding to treatment has given her hope.

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Now she'll spend time as one of the castmembers on the upcoming season of ABC's reality show Dancing With the Stars, it was announced Wednesday morning.

On Wednesday's Good Morning America, Harper offered more details about her condition.

"Well, the brain scans that you get every two months are looking better and better and my doctors … they are just delighted that I'm moving in the right direction, so as my husband said, 'Let's just buy time now,' " Harper said.

The actress also tells People, "I feel much better. The doctors tell me there's less evidence of cancer, which is very unusual. However, they both say it's not a case of if, but when. And I can live with that."

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In fact, her improving condition may have inspired her to say yes to appearing on the show, which she'd been asked to do before.

"I always said no because I started dancing on Broadway at 17…and I didn't want to appear on the show and fumble because of my diagnosis," she tells the magazine.

But now that she's feeling better, she hopes it "might prove inspiring to people to see a 74-year-old woman with terminal cancer dancing."

Harper has even rearranged her treatment schedule for the powerful medication she's taking so that she can better compete on the show, with her doctors' blessings.

"After she takes it, she doesn't feel good for about a day and a half," her husband Tony Cacciotti tells People. "So right after the show on Monday nights, she'll take it and then take a break from practices until Wednesday afternoons."

Harper was planning to live her life to the fullest even before she found out she had more time.

"As long as you’re alive, you can do something," she told AARP The Magazine in an interview for its October/November issue. "Don’t start putting a foot in the grave or planning a funeral. You can plan it, but don’t start planning it as if it’s that day.”