Mar. 6, 2013— -- intro: Valerie Harper fans were shocked to hear the news that the sitcom star has been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and may have as little as three months to live.
Harper, 73, is best known for playing Rhoda Morgenstern on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" before starring in her own spinoff, "Rhoda."
She received the diagnosis on Jan. 15, after experiencing stroke-like symptoms that sent her to the hospital. Tests revealed that she had leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, a rare condition that occurs when cancer cells spread into the fluid-filled membrane surrounding the brain.
"It was as if I had Novocain," the Emmy-award winning actress said in a live interview on "Good Morning America" Jan. 21, almost a week after receiving the diagnosis. "I thought what the heck is happening to me?"
Harper tells People magazine in its latest issue that though she's opting for chemotherapy, doctors have given her only three months to live.
"I don't think of dying. I think of being here now," she says.
It's been 43 years since Mary's frank and funny upstairs neighbor made her debut on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." Though "Mary Tyler Moore" ended in 1977, fans and new generations of fans can continue to enjoy Mary, Rhoda and the gang on cable television.
Click through to read more about the cast of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" then and now.
quicklist: 1title: Mary Tyler Moore/Mary Richardstext: Mary Tyler Moore ditched the dutiful-wife role on the hit series "The Dick Van Dyke Show" to play the single, stylish spunky TV producer Mary Richards on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." The series was heralded by the women's movement for being the first to show an independent, single working woman living alone.
Moore first tossed her hat in the air from a Minneapolis sidewalk in 1970, and over seven years, she was the heart of the WJM newsroom even as she perpetually got her own heart broken by a series of rotten guys. Fortunately, she was surrounded by great co-workers and friends.
When the show ended, Moore, now 76, added an Oscar nomination for 1980's "Ordinary People" to go along with her five Emmys from "Dick Van Dyke" and "Mary Tyler Moore." She also starred in various TV movies, appeared on "That '70s Show" and continued to support animal rights and juvenile diabetes.media: 18667618
quicklist: 2title: Valerie Harper/Rhoda Morgensterntext: Harper played Mary's best friend Rhoda, a shoot-from-the-hip, loud-mouthed New Yorker. After four seasons, she left to star in her own spinoff, "Rhoda," which lasted four years. Harper picked up four Emmys and a Golden Globe for playing Rhoda on "Mary Tyler Moore."
After "Rhoda" ended, Harper moved on to the 1986 sitcom "Valerie," until parting two years later because of a salary dispute. She was replaced by Sandy Duncan, and the series was renamed "The Hogan Family." Harper continued to take guest parts on such shows as "Sex and the City" and "Melrose Place," and appeared on Broadway. In 2000, Harper and Moore reunited for the TV movie "Mary and Rhoda."
While promoting her memoir, "I, Rhoda" on "GMA" in January, Harper revealed that she had battled lung cancer in 2009 while starring in the Broadway show "Looped." "I thought this is just not going to be good for comedy if the audience is out there worrying about their Rhoda," Harper said of her decision to keep her disease, which she fought with a combination of chemotherapy and radiation, private.media: 18667937
quicklist: 3title: Ed Asner/Lou GrantText: As gruff boss Lou Grant, Ed Asner ruled the WJM newsroom with an iron fist, but he had a soft spot for Mary. After "Mary Tyler Moore" ended, Asner continued to play Grant in the hour-long dramatic spinoff series "Lou Grant," becoming the only actor to win an Emmy for playing the same character in a sitcom and drama.
A former SAG president, Asner, now 83, went on to play many memorable guest roles in shows such as "ER" and "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip." He's also known for playing Santa Claus in "Elf" and "Christmas Vacation 2."media: 18667808
quicklist: 4title: Cloris Leachman/Phyllis Lindstromtext: As Mary and Rhoda's nosy landlady, Cloris Leachman bragged about her never seen husband, Lars, and her daughter, Beth, while paying backhanded compliments to single girl Mary. Leachman also starred in her own short-lived spinoff, "Phyllis."
An Oscar winner for 1971's "The Last Picture Show" and the star of several Mel Brooks' movies, Leachman went on to star in "The Facts of Life" and won two Emmys playing the grouchy grandmother in "Malcolm in the Middle." The 86-year-old actress has won a total of eight primetime Emmys, more than any other performer.media: 18667907
quicklist: 5title: Ted Knight/Ted Baxtertext: Ted Knight played Ted Baxter, the handsome but vain anchor who couldn't read a cue card. His adorable but bumbling wife Georgette was equally lacking in intelligence. Knight returned to television as a kind, curmudgeonly cartoonist in the series "Too Close for Comfort." He died in 1986 at age 62 of colon cancer.media: 18668002
quicklist: 6title: Gavin MacLeod/Murray Slaughtertext: As the put-upon writer Murray Slaughter, Gavin MacLeod had to tolerate Ted Baxter butchering his scripts since his own balding pate and excessive sweating kept him from the anchor chair. He finally got to be captain of the ship when he set sail on "The Love Boat" in 1977.
Since then, the 82-year-old actor has guest starred on such shows as "JAG" and "Oz." Along with his second wife, Patti Kendig, whom he divorced and remarried, he became a born-again Christian and hosted a Trinity Broadcasting Network show on marriage.media: 18667472
quicklist: 7title: Georgia Engel/Georgettetext: Georgia Engel joined "Mary Tyler Moore" in 1972, playing Ted Baxter's wife, the soft-spoken, good-hearted Georgette. After the show ended, Engel co-starred with Betty White in White's season-long sitcom, along in two other short-lived 1980s series, before landing a role as Robert Barone's mother-in-law on the hit series "Everybody Loves Raymond."
Her whispery voice has also been heard in such animated films as "The Care Bears Movie" and "Open Season." Last year, Engel, 64, reunited with White for the third season of White's hit sitcom "Hot in Cleveland."media: 18667551
quicklist: 8title: Betty White/Sue Ann Nivenstext:As the man-hungry Sue Ann Nivens, Betty White turned a guest role in season four into a regular cast spot and earned two Emmys. She went on to play the better known role of Rose on the hit series "Golden Girls." She hasn't stopped working since, appearing on everything from "Ally McBeal" to "Boston Legal" to the daytime soap "The Bold and the Beautiful."
At 91, she's showing no signs of slowing down. She has another hit series, "Hot in Cleveland," and is host of the practical joke show "Betty White's Off Their Rockers." media: 18667368