Ever since her days on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Valerie Harper has been inspiring people with her optimistic outlook, determined spirit, and perky personality. It’s no surprise, therefore, that even the worst medical diagnosis hasn’t changed this incredibly resilient woman.
In 2013, Harper stunned the world when she revealed that she had been diagnosed with leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, a form of cancer that involves the spread of affected cells into the meninges, or fluid-filled membrane surrounding the brain. She was given just three months to live and many feared the worst but now, more than four years later, she’s alive and doing well.
In an interview with People magazine, Harper explained, “I’m still here. I still have cancer, but I’m okay and most of my days are good.” How incredible!
Almost five decades after emerging into the spotlight as Rhoda Morgenstern, a role that would earn her a spinoff sitcom of her own and launch a lengthy career, Harper continues to find a way to defy the odds.
Her oncologist, Dr. Jeremy Rudnick, was very blunt when he said, “It’s a miracle she’s still here.” He’s right, too. Apparently, Harper was diagnosed at a time when “stronger and better targeting drugs for her particular cancer. The longer we keep her alive the more options we have.”
It hasn’t been smooth sailing, though. While Harper may have benefited from having access to a relatively new chemotherapy drug when she was diagnosed, she has begun experiencing cognitive deficits and seizures this year. Fortunately, her medical team was, again, able to find a experimental drug that has been effective.
The four-time Emmy winner also has a strong support system, which has been shown to improve the chances of survival among cancer patients. Harper’s husband of 30 years, Tony Caccioti, has taken the caregiver role very seriously. Once a personal trainer, the 78-year-old “does everything for me,” the actress explains. “He drives me everywhere, makes sure I’m eating healthy, walking and lifting weights. Really, he’s the best nudge in the world.”