More than five years ago, Valerie Harper was given less than three months to live. Now, the beloved TV star, best known for her roles on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda, and her self-titled 1986 sitcom, Valerie, needs financial help in her ongoing cancer battle.
Harper, who is now 79 years old, was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2009. In 2013, doctors discovered that Harper had developed a rare brain cancer, leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, Deadline reports.
After a 10-year cancer battle, Harper’s family is now seeking money through a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for her daily healthcare costs that are not covered through insurance. The message on the Valerie Harper Cancer Support Fund revealed that while Harper “has been grateful” for many medical breakthroughs in the years since her diagnosis, she is still taking “a multitude of medications and chemotherapy drugs as well as going through extreme physical and painful challenges” every day.
Harper reportedly now needs round-the-clock care, which is not covered by insurance and is causing an extreme financial burden to her family. The GoFundMe initiative is spearheaded by the actress’s husband, Tony Cacciotti, her husband of 32 years who has been by her side throughout her cancer battle. A rep for Harper told Deadline that some of the Emmy-winning star’s colleagues in the acting community are aware of her situation and that the crowdfunding page had been shared with “a small group” of Screen Actors Guild members.
Harper first went public with her terminal brain cancer diagnosis in March 2013. Five months later, her doctor revealed that the actress was incredibly “getting pretty close to remission,” according to Today. Harper’s response to chemotherapy and alternative acupuncture treatments “defied the odds,” her doc said, but he admitted that the star’s leptomeningeal carcinomatosis will “develop resistance to the therapy.”
“It’s not a matter of if (the cancer becomes resistant),” Harper’s neuro-oncologist, Dr. Jeremy Rudnick, said. “It’s a matter of when.”
Still, the doctor marveled over the fact that Harper went “from having three months to live” to more than six months post-diagnosis.
“Now there’s even hope beyond right now we’re looking at,” Harper’s doctor said in 2013. “Life is about buying time.”
Harper won four Emmys for playing Rhoda Morgenstern, Mary Richard’s witty best friend and neighbor, on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and its spinoff Rhoda in the 1970s. She went on to star in Valerie in 1986 before her character was killed off and the show was renamed Valerie’s Family, and later, The Hogan Family after a contract dispute.
Even during her illness, Harper has continued to work, appearing as a guest star on shows like Hot in Cleveland, Melissa & Joey, and 2 Broke Girls.
Incredibly, Harper even competed on Dancing with the Stars after her 2013 cancer diagnosis. The then-74-year-old star was the third contestant eliminated during Season 17 of the ABC celebrity ballroom competition, but she was a winner in fans’ eyes.