“Dancing with the Stars” said goodbye to its most inspirational celebrity ever when terminally ill Valerie Harper was sent home on Monday night.
The “Rhoda” TV icon, who has been battling cancer, kept her upbeat attitude even after receiving a dismal score of 18 for her Viennese waltz with partner Tristan MacManus – then having to pack up her dancing shoes on elimination night.
“I feel very happy that I was here for four dances,” Valerie, 74, told Xfinitytv.com backstage after the show.
But with a twinkle in her eye, she admitted, “My knees are killing me so ice packs are looking pretty good, almost as good as the trophy ball — What’s it called? — the mirror ball!
“I have been exceedingly lucky that I got through ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ did not die on the floor or — less than that — fall.”
Valerie laughed when she said of her partner, Tristan, “He wouldn’t let me fall. He would throw himself under me and pretend it was a lift.”
The actress said she’d learned about “the beauty of the human spirit” by doing the show. “It’s reinforced with these kids, this wonderful troupe of dancers. And then, my show business colleagues who are so wonderful and I got to know them. I have a new group of friends, it’s fabulous.”
Previously: Who went home on ‘DWTS’?
Valerie is due to get a new cancer brain scan to check on her progress. She revealed to reporters, “I don’t have any symptoms. I might be in a fool’s paradise — you just don’t know. I’ll go in, we’ll take the scan and the next day we’ll talk to my doctors. They’ll show me what’s going on, if the pills I’m taking are really working as well as they feel they are.”
The funny lady said her medication has been keeping her going through the grueling “DWTS” competition. “I took it every Monday night after the show because I didn’t want to imperil the show. It’s just pills but it gets me a little groggy.”
Incredibly, the brave star already has other show business plans!
“I have a movie that I might be doing that my husband will produce. He’s got a couple of wonderful ideas and is moving ahead on reality shows that are really good. And two plays — one I’m reading the script.”
Valerie said her husband, Tony Cacciotti, wants her “to keep moving. When I got this diagnosis, it was really horrible. He said, ‘Val, you gotta keep working.’ I said, ‘I don’t want to work. I want to garden. Or let’s go to Paris or something. He said, ‘Oh, no.’”
“There’s a new perspective on cancer that was just in the New York Times today. It was in an article about me, saying she’s dancing. People used to say go home, rest, put your feet up or take a long cruise. Within the article it talked about with cancer, exercise — be it movement, dance, whatever — is very beneficial.
“We got this invitation [to "DWTS"]. It’s the best thing I could have done!” she declared.