America absolutely fell in love with Valerie Harper for her portrayal of Rhoda Morgenstern in The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Rhoda and Mary were an unstoppable team, especially when they were both single, but it was Rhoda that stole the show. She was spunky, brash and fun, brave enough to move to New York on her own, and divorced—unapologetically—in an era when this was uncommon.
We loved Rhoda for her sense of humor in the face of life's challenges and because she was brutally honest. We all need a Rhoda in our lives – especially as women! In real life, Valerie Harper has been a long-time activist for civil rights, women's rights and the underprivileged, and Valerie is still fighting for causes she cares about.
Currently battling lung cancer, Valerie has focused her energies on raising women's awareness about the risk of lung cancer. When it comes to lung cancer, some Rhoda-style brutal honesty is needed – it is the top cancer killer of both women and men, yet only 1% of women report having it on their health radar.
While there are many misconceptions about this disease, the fact is that anyone can get lung cancer. And this is a women's issue. Lung cancer death rates have almost doubled among all women in the past 38 years, while falling among men. Every hour, 8 women - our mothers, daughters, sisters and loved ones - lose their battle with lung cancer.
Through the American Lung Association's LUNG FORCE initiative, we have made some progress: the 2015 Women's Lung Health Barometer revealed a 10 percent increase in awareness since 2014 of risk factors, such as radon gas and air pollution, exposure to secondhand smoke, and family history. Yet women at high risk still do not understand their lung cancer risks and many have not spoken with a doctor. Understanding your risks and speaking with your healthcare provider about lung cancer screening is important, as early detection is key to saving lives.
Right now in the United States, there are approximately 3.5 million women at high risk. We need to reach these women with the message that lung cancer screening is available and is now largely covered by insurance for those at high-risk.
Valerie Harper is an inspiring example for us all. We need to embrace the Rhoda in all of us, and unite as women to raise our voices in the fight against lung cancer. If your life has been touched by lung cancer, we encourage you to raise your voice and share your story. Together with Valerie, we'll bring lung cancer out of the shadows and defeat this devastating disease.