For over 40 years, Valerie Harper was an inspiration for women who idolized her iconic television character, Rhoda. Valerie, like her character Rhoda, addressed every challenge in her life head on.

There are few people we are fortunate enough to know who have that infectious, standout "something" that Valerie had—some might have called her a dynamo, a firecracker, a spitfire. All were true of Valerie, but they didn't quite do her justice.

I first met Valerie Harper at the American Lung Association's LUNG FORCE launch event in New York City in May 2014. Valerie was there to help us kick off the first official movement to defeat lung cancer—a disease she was first diagnosed with in 2009.

When she initially shared her voice and her story with us, I recall her saying, "Take that, lung cancer—because I've got your number." It was this fearless, determined attitude that Valerie brought to everything she did—from her career in the entertainment industry to advocating for equal rights to her journey with lung cancer.

Valerie Harper and Audrey Sylvia backstage during a LUNG FORCE awareness event.

She knew instinctively what we were striving for with LUNG FORCE. Collectively, we needed to pull lung cancer out of the shadows and into the light where more people would talk about it. Shake off the stigma, and mobilize all Americans, women and men, to help us make a real difference in the fight against this terrible disease.

This was a woman who fought her whole life against all kinds of odds, and throughout it all, she continued to shine as the brightest beacon. Because Valerie's voice was so powerful, she changed the conversation about what it means to live with lung cancer. By living in the moment and approaching each day with grace, she inspired everyone she came in contact with.

We are mourning the loss of a wonderful lung cancer advocate, partner and friend. But more importantly, we're celebrating the woman who will always wear a "once in a lifetime" halo. We will never know another like her.

Rest peacefully, dear Valerie. We promise to keep your legacy alive and continue our tireless efforts to one day defeat lung cancer.

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