Amazing Cancer Survival: Valerie Harper and Wilko Johnson

“You have terminal cancer, and only a few months to live.”

These are some of the most difficult words a person can hear. But they were spoken to two celebrities we have followed on Celebrity Diagnosis.

Rhoda actress Valerie Harper was told in January 2013 that the lung cancer she had been treated for in 2009 had returned as a rare brain cancer called leptomenigeal carcinomatosis(LC)In LC, cancer cell spread throughout the coverings of the brain, rather than in a single (or sometimes multiple) discrete tumors. She was given 3 to 6 months to live by her doctors. She underwent a course of chemotherapy and then became a contestant on Dancing with the Stars! In August, she announced that she was “nearly in remisssion.”  It was recently reported that she is now “cancer-free,” however Harper clarified this in a statement to Us Weekly:

“In response to a recent erroneous quote concerning my health, I am not ‘absolutely cancer-free. I wish I were. Right now what I am is cautiously optimistic about my present condition and I have hope for the future.”

wilko-johnson-s-farewell-tourAlso in January 2013, Wilko Johnson, a guitarist and songwriter from the UK rhythm and blues band Dr. Feelgood, and one of the founding influences of the British punk movement, received the diagnosis of terminal pancreatic cancer. He was given a few months to live and declined all treatments.

Instead, Johnson went on the road to perform. He’s written some new songs and has even released a new album “Going Back Home,” a new collaboration with the Who’s Roger Daltrey.  He’s even thinking about hitting the studio yet again.

And he recently told BBC Radio 2 that doctors are baffled over his surprisingly “good health:”

“The doctors have recently become curious as to why I’m not either dead or very, very ill.

“I don’t want to indulge in false hope – so what they find and what they think they can do, I don’t want to speculate. I don’t fear death. I do fear the sickness. Because I’m a wimp.”

Here’s wishing both many more happy months!


Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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