After facing serious health concerns this summer, actress Valerie Harper is opening up about her battle with cancer and conquering setbacks with the help of her doctors and caregivers.
“Listen, I was supposed to be dead in three months, maybe six, because of the kind of cancer I had,” Harper, who was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in 2013, said at the Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) Heroes Awards in San Antonio, Texas on Friday. “It’s a toughie.”
The actress has far outlived her initial diagnosis, battling the disease for nearly three years now, she told the crowd, to a round of applause. “It’s three years this January that I have lived,” she said.
The GBM Heroes Awards honor doctors and caregivers in the field of cancer treatment, and The Mary Tyler Moore Show actress described herself as a “beneficiary” of the advancements in the field in recent years.
“Most people don’t know anything about it,” Harper said of the disease. “They just know it’s horrible and they should be afraid.”
The 76-year-old actress also sang the praises of her personal caregiver, husband Tony Cacciotti, saying, “I will burst into tears any minute because of what he’s done for me.”
“It’s Tony who gave me my pills on time, insisted I take them, insisted I eat properly, insisted I exercise,” she continued. ”Tony has been just incredible this whole time.”
Cacciotti was also by his wife’s side in July when she collapsed just before a performance of her musical Nice Work If You Can Get It at the Ogunquit Playhouse in Maine.
“I went to Maine to do a play, and I was doing fine, learning my lines,” Harper told the crowd of the incident. “[But then] I was having trouble repeating the lines. Finally, long story short, I collapsed, pretty much.”
The actress explained that a complication with her cancer treatment caused a “blockage” that was preventing her medication from working properly, which is what led to her collapse. She credited her doctors, and Cacciotti once again, for making sure she got the proper care.
“My husband was the one who caught it,” she said. “My husband was the one who got it going. My husband is the one who got me in the hospital. It was incredible.”
Harper thanked Cacciotti for his “incredible, continual, staunch support” and the crowd, saying she was “really delighted to be a part of this evening.”
“The thing about being alive is being alive,” she concluded. “All of us are going to die. Every single one of us. So, while you’re alive, be alive.”