Valerie Harper Opens Up About Living With Terminal Cancer

In 2013, Valerie Harper, best known for her role as Rhoda Morgenstern on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, received news that no one ever wants to hear. The four-time Emmy Award-winning actress was told that she had leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, a rare form of brain cancer, and her prognosis was not good.

Harper was given three to six months to live, but five years later, she is miraculously still alive.

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Harper, 78, is still living with cancer, but she continues to beat the odds, even managing to take on a few television, film and stage roles. Since her diagnosis, she has appeared in a short film, My Mom and the Girl (2016), and starred on season 17 of Dancing with the Stars, 2 Broke Girls, and Childrens Hospital.

Her oncologist, Dr. Jeremy Rudnick, told People that "It's a miracle she's still here."

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"I'm still here," Harper opened up to People in a recently. "I still have cancer, but I'm okay and most of my days are good."

The 70s icon also revealed her secrets to defying the odds in the candid interview.

Harper was put on a new chemotherapy drug immediately after her diagnosis. She remained on it for a few years, however, earlier this year she began to experience serious side effects, including seizures and cognitive problems. Her doctors realized that the treatment had stopped working, but they soon found an experimental drug that could help.

"Valerie developed this disease at a time when we keep coming up with stronger and better targeting drugs for her particular cancer," said Dr. Rudnick. "The longer we keep her alive the more options we have."


While the course of treatment has been successful so far, Harper believes her husband's support is one of the biggest reasons why she is still alive. Former personal trainer Tony Caccioti, 78, and Harper have been married for 30 years, and he has been her caregiver through the ordeal.

"I've had a few seizures, and Tony watches me like a hawk, like a real caregiver," Valerie explained. "He's been incredible."

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She continued, "He does everything for me, drives me everywhere, makes sure I'm eating healthy, walking and lifting weights. Really, he's the best nudge in the world."

Harper also offered up some advice for those who are fighting cancer saying, "Get yourself a fabulous husband or wife who's really committed to you and you living .... Get yourself a Tony. Get your somebody who's going to do it."

We wish Harper all the best and hope she wins the battle against this awful disease.

Blair isn't a bestselling author, but she has a knack for beautiful prose. When she isn't writing for Shared, she enjoys listening to podcasts.