Valerie Harper was diagnosed with lung cancer, so people might assume that she smoked.
But did Valerie Harper smoke? No. In fact, she joined a movement to help raise awareness about the dangers of lung cancer.
Harper was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2009. In 2013, she learned she had a rare form of brain cancer.
She never smoked, and neither did her mother, who also had lung cancer.
Harper teamed up with the American Lung Association in 2014 to join the Lung Force Campaign and raise awareness about the dangers of lung cancer.
Here’s what you need to know:
Valerie Harper Battled Lung Cancer In 2009 & Later Was Diagnosed With Brain Cancer
Valerie Harper was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2009. After a battle with the disease, she was diagnosed in 2013 with a rare form of brain cancer called leptomeningeal carcinomatosis following a battery of tests. Leptomeningeal carcinomatosis is a condition in which cancer cells spread into the fluid-filled membrane that surrounds the brain.
The brain cancer diagnosis was likely linked to her lung cancer diagnosis, Anders Cohen, chief of neurosurgery and spine surgery at The Brooklyn Hospital Center told USA Today. He was not involved with Harper’s treatment.
“Most likely this is a recurrence of the lung cancer Valerie Harper battled in 2009,” he said.
“Cancer has a propensity to spread to other areas of the body, and the brain is the most common destination for disease to spread from its primary location due to its high blood supply — 20% of the body’s blood flow goes to the brain, and cancer often spreads through the blood supply. This is a subtype of metastatic disease.”
Harper’s form of cancer was more difficult to treat than treating a solid tumor because the cancer cells line the coating and fluid canals in the brain. Typically, leptomeningeal carcinomatosis is treated by administering chemotherapy directly into the brain through a catheter, and by radiation.
At the time she was diagnosed with brain cancer, she was given only three months to live.
Despite the terminal cancer diagnosis, Harper told PEOPLE she wasn’t afraid to die.
“I don’t think of dying. I think of being here now,” she said.
Valerie Harper Never Smoked
Valerie Harper never smoked. She was an advocate for lung cancer patients, raising awareness for the dangerous disease with Lung Force.
“Women need to know about lung cancer – what a deadly disease it is,” Harper said in a press release speaking about the campaign.
She partnered with the American Lung Association to join the Lung Force Campaign in 2014, which was sponsored by CVS Pharmacies.
“I have bad news for everyone. If you have lungs, you’re in line for lung cancer,” she said.
About 10 to 15 percent of lung cancer patients never smoked, the press release said. Environmental and genetic factors also play a role in whether a person will be diagnosed with cancer. Valerie Harper’s mom and had a battle with lung cancer, and she never smoked either.
Harper said there is a stigma associated with lung cancer.
“You say, ‘Oh did they smoke?’ That’s a prejudice in itself. I never smoked,” she said.