Valerie Harper, the beloved actress best known for the 1970s series The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rhoda, has died at age 80. The star passed away after a long battle with cancer, Us Weekly reports.
Harper had been battling health problems for a decade, starting with a 2009 lung cancer diagnosis. In 2013, she was given three months to live after being diagnosed with the rare brain cancer, leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, but went on to stun doctors with her amazing survival rate.
The four-time Emmy winner even competed on Dancing With the Stars after she was given a terminal cancer diagnosis. The then-74-year-old star was the third contestant eliminated during Season 17 of the ABC celebrity ballroom competition, landing in 10th place, but she stole viewers’ hearts with her bravery and positive attitude.
At the time, Harper told ABC News she planned to live her life instead of focusing on death.
“Don’t die until you’re dead!” Harper said of her decision to compete on the ABC celebrity ballroom competition. “Don’t give up on your life. Till God strikes you dead, don’t just lay there.”
While her positive attitude was key, in 2015, Harper told People that her husband was the secret to her survival.
“He’s such a nudge,” Harper said of husband Tony Cacciotti. “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.”
Valerie Harper, TV Fans' Beloved Rhoda Morgenstern, Is Dead https://t.co/Xk8np9KD8T— People (@people) August 30, 2019
Last month, Harper’s husband posted a lengthy message to Facebook to reveal that doctors advised him to put his wife in hospice, but he refused out of his commitment to her. Cacciotti vowed to care for his wife as long as he was able and capable. He told People that his wife was having some good days and some “tough days” as she battled her illness at home.
Harper shot to fame in the early 1970s as Rhoda Morgenstern on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, then went on to star in the CBS spinoff, Rhoda. The actress later starred on Valerie, which was later renamed Valerie’s Family and The Hogan Family after she left the sitcom. Harper also earned a Tony Award nomination for her performance as Tallulah Bankhead in Looped in 2010.
Even during her illness, Harper appeared as a guest star on several sitcoms, including Hot in Cleveland, Melissa & Joey, and 2 Broke Girls.
Harper is survived by Cacciotti, her husband of 32 years, and their daughter, Cristina.