Heartbreaking. Valerie Harper sadly died at age 80 on Friday, August 30, after a lengthy battle with brain cancer, Closer can confirm. The beloved actress — best known for her role as Rhoda Morgenstern on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and its spinoff Rhoda — passed away at 10:06 a.m. this morning.
Valerie’s fight against the incurable disease first began when she was diagnosed with leptomeningeal carcinomatosis in 2013. The Broadway star — who was told she had only three months to live at the time — blew the expectations out of the water after surviving over six more years than they originally thought.
Things began looking up for the brunette beauty — who also beat lung cancer in 2009 — after she returned to acting in 2017 for the first time since being diagnosed with the condition, which occurs when cancer cells spread into the brain’s fluid-filled membrane. She appeared in My Mom and the Girl, the true story of a daughter taking care of her mother while battling Alzheimer’s.
It wasn’t until nearly two years later in mid-July 2019 when fans of the New York native became worried for her health. On July 8, Valerie’s longtime husband, Tony Cacciotti, started a GoFundMe campaign to help raise money to pay for her treatments. The page’s description explained that all the donations would help alleviate the cost of a “multitude of medications and chemotherapy drugs” and other medical services that are “not covered by insurance.” The GoFundMe page has received over $66,181 since it was created.
Not long before she sadly passed, Tony, 79, opened up to fans about how tough it is for him caring for his cancer-stricken wife in a candid Facebook post on Valerie’s account. “I have been told by doctors to put Val in Hospice care and I can’t [because of our 40 years of shared commitment to each other] and I won’t because of the amazing good deeds she has graced us with while she’s been here on earth,” The Longest Yard actor said of her.
Even though the couple endured tough times with her health struggles, Tony gushed that the battle made their longtime love story so much stronger. “Our marriage has deepened,” he exclusively told Closer Weekly in July. “We have an extraordinarily strong friendship [and] that’s the foundation of our union.”
Our thoughts and prayers are with Tony and the rest of Valerie’s family during this difficult time.
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