Okay, we are officially inspired. Valerie Harper recently returned to acting for the first time since being diagnosed with incurable brain cancer in My Mom and the Girl, and she revealed why it was the perfect film for her big comeback.
The 78-year-old former Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rhoda star told Fox News why she connected so much with the short film, which is the true story of director/writer Susie Singer Carter taking care of her mother battling Alzheimer’s. “[This is about] facing a disease that really doesn’t have a good diagnosis,” she explained, obviously relating deeply. “I happen to have a fabulous caregiver who is my husband, Tony Cacciotti. He’s been taking care of everything. Everything in my life. It’s just the most wonderful thing. Susie is coming around this time with a different disease, but the same idea of [how] to face it. Not deciding that you’re going to die.”
Valerie and Filmmaker Susie Singer Carter.
It was this relationship with her husband that inspired her to do the film. “In fact, my husband doesn’t let me go anywhere alone,” she continued. “He drives me everywhere. He’s incredible. So I have a setup that’s very good… This film has a great sadness to it… But this film also has great comedy because Susie managed to form that in her heart, as well as telling [her] truth. Saying the stuff that hurts.”
Besides the support of her husband, another motivator to act again was the fact that she’s still going strong when no one expected her to. “People are saying, ‘She’s on her way to death and quickly,’” explained Valerie. “Now it’s five years instead of three months… And the thing is, everyone is going to die in one way or another. So why don’t you fight it? I’m going to fight this. I’m going to see a way.” Right now, that fight includes treatment at Cedars-Sinai, acupuncture, and immunotherapy.
Valerie and her husband.
Valerie thought back to the day four years ago when she got the horrible news of her cancer diagnosis, and how far she’s come. “[The doctor] said, ‘You know, I hate to tell you this, but this disease that you now have — it’s not the brain. It’s the lining of the brain,’” she said. “‘This is very difficult. There’s no cure. We don’t have a pill. We don’t have anything that works really well. We can’t get the medication to hit what you need to hit.’”
She’s definitely feeling more positive now, especially since My Mom an the Girl was Oscar qualified in the Short Film category — that means they could be in the running for an Academy Award! “I’ve had a wonderful career,” said Valerie. “I got to be an actress. I was a dancer. And then I grew into this area of acting and that was just so wonderful. So what’s going on now [for me]? I hope everybody will come to see this movie.”