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Actress Valerie Harper Shares Her Experience As A Cancer Survivor

Do you remember Rhoda Morgenstern in The Mary Tyler Moore Show? Her real name is Valerie Harper. She also featured in movies such as Freebie and the Bean, and Chapter Two. She got rewarded with two Golden Globe Award nominations for these roles.


Apart from being a Hollywood star, she is also a legend in stage plays. She is a regular on Broadway productions where she started her acting profession as a dancer. Harper made her debut appearance in the 1959 musical gig ‘Take Me Along.’ She clinched a nomination in the Tony Award for Best Actress in a play called ‘Looped’ where she was cast as Talullah in 2010.

Valerie Harper is best know for her role as Rhoda Morgenstern in ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’

But today, Valerie Harper is a cancer survivor who has overcome the worst stage that could have taken her life fours ago. The beginning was extremely tough, but now, she is doing just fine. “It’s good to be alive today,” she says cheerfully as she relaxed in her Californian apartment. “I should have died some years ago…, but I’m still here,” Harper reminisced. “I’m not yet 100% cancer-free, but I’m coping fine now than before.”

A scene from ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’

Harper had everything going for her for about 50 years, hooking a juicy entree role as Rhoda Morgenstern on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. That character opened more doors for her, and she went on to become a screen sensation in the 70s. She started her famous sitcom show titled ‘Rhoda.’

The sail was smooth until 2013 when Harper announced to her huge fans across the globe that she’s been tested positive for leptomeningeal carcinomatosis.

Leptomeningeal carcinomatosis is a medical condition of cancer where the disease travels to the spinal cord and the membranes (meninges) that envelope the region of the brain. This disease is lethal, and it happens in about 5% population of cancer victims. Survival depends largely on the attitude towards its treatment.

Harper’s shocking revelation went viral as her name was in numerous tabloids. Worst still, she was given just three months left to be alive.

Harper is determined to fight the evil claws of the scourge, and only those who are close to her will know that she is battling cancer. Her aura is bright as she exhibits gaiety wherever she goes. It’s been more than four and a half years after Harper became cancerous.

Even her oncologist, Dr. Jeremy Rudnick, is surprised. “It’s unbelievable that she can make it this far.”

Valerie Harper and her Loving husband, Tony

Harper was placed on new drugs specially made for chemotherapy as recommended by the doctors not long after her diagnosis. The disease was curbed due to this process.

Leptomeningeal carcinomatosis (LC) can be detected through the following signs; meningeal symptoms such as pain, seizures, headaches that comes with nausea, vomiting, light-headedness, discomfort in gait as a result of weakness, memory problems, cognition abnormalities, behavioral changes, hearing loss, etc.

Harper was plagued with some of these symptoms like seizures and cognition anomalies earlier in the year. Her physicians once again uncovered a tentative pill that can work.

Harper got this disease when we continued to produce effective drugs aimed at curing her cancer,” Rudnick says. “As long as she is living, we will have ample time to produce more trusted options.”

In a romantic mood, Harper attributed her current health victory to her 78-year-old husband, Tony Caccioti, a retired fitness trainer. They have been married for over three decades. “My survival hinges on him,” she says.” He is my angel, my shoulder to cry on. He sacrificed his time to care for me. He never left my side. He monitors my well-being every minute of the day. He took up the responsibility to do everything I need. He ensures I eat on time and healthy foods. He is my chauffeur, stroll mate, and personal workout trainer. Really, he’s the best husband any wife would pray for,” Harper said.

Harper is an accomplished actress, with four Emmy awards to her credit. Her strong-willed spirit did not allow her to give up on her acting career, in spite of her health challenges. She is currently on set with the crew of the episodic series of ‘The Simpsons and American Dad’, as well as a thought-provoking role in the short film titled ‘My Mom and the Girl,’ where she played an Alzheimer’s patient.

She, however, appreciate the adequate medical treatments she has received so far. It has helped her in many ways.

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