A bright light has left the ballroom. After defying the odds and surviving several weeks of grueling rehearsals, actress and cancer patient Valerie Harper was voted off Dancing with the Stars Monday night.
The Rhoda star, who was diagnosed with brain cancer earlier this year, became beloved by the cast and audience of the dancing hit, but was unable to secure enough votes and high scores to outlast the nine remaining couples.
"It has been absolutely wonderful, completely unique, like nothing else in the world," Harper said as she hugged pro partner Tristan MacManus. “It was an opportunity for me to carry a message to folks. Not just with cancer…but with whatever challenge.”
Her partner MacManus appeared emotional as he explained the impact she has had on him. "I feel like I've been very lucky," he said as the crowd stood and applauded. “I feel like maybe my life’s a little bit better since I met Valerie Harper.”
MacManus wasn’t the only one to express his love for Harper after their elimination. Fellow castmate, comedian Bill Engvall, told Entertainment Weekly after the show, “I hope to God I can be half the person she is. I kinda wish they’d have just given her the trophy and said ‘Look, here’s the deal.’”
Former reality star Jack Osbourne, who revealed last year that he suffers from multiple sclerosis said of Harper, “I think Valerie’s message is amazing…She’s an example of strength. With cancer, everyone thinks it’s game over but she’s come out here and she’s done what she’s done magnificently and she’s an amazing example.”
After reading headlines from earlier this year, Harper’s appearance and performance on the show has been a surprise to many. Given only three months to live last March, Hollywood’s sweetheart has surpassed all expectations seven months after her initial diagnosis.
And she has no plans to quit living now that she’s off the show. “My favorite saying goes…'don’t go to the funeral until the day of the funeral!’” Harper told People magazine outside the show's after-party. “Let me do my best today. Let me be grateful.”
One thing that she's definitely grateful for? “I’m so happy my knees are not broken!”