A Timeline of Valerie Harper's Battle With Cancer

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Valerie Harper's fans were saddened to learn that The Mary Tyler Moore Showactress died  on Friday at the age of 80.

Harper -- best known for her role as Rhoda Morgenstern on the beloved series, as well as its spinoff, Rhoda -- spent many years before her death struggling with two separate cancer diagnosis. However, the beloved TV star was resilient, maintained a positive attitude, continued to charm fans and appear on the silver screen.

As we say goodbye to the shining actress who graced our television for many decades, here’s a breakdown of Harper's battle with cancer, and what she said about fighting the disease. 


Valerie Harper
CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

2009: The TV legend was diagnosed with lung cancer. Harper's surgeon removed a lobe of her lung. After the procedure, her tests and scans came back clear. 

2013: In March, Harper revealed that she had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. The actress shared that she had first learned of the news in January, after a number of tests revealed she has leptomeningeal carcinomatosis. At the time, her doctor had given her three months to live. 

"I don't think of dying," she said of the diagnosis. "I think of being here now."

2014: In April 2014, she told ET that her cancer had not spread to other parts of her body, although, Harper pointed out that, contrary to reports at the time, she had not been "cured."

"I feel wonderful," she expressed. "What luck! Here I am. The three months [prognosis] didn't prove to be correct. The cancer I have is quite rare and terminal and incurable. I'm the recipient of a great research project that has kept me alive."

"In a way, it's a positive thing to know that a year's gone by and it's nowhere else in my body," she told ET.

2015: Harper began her run as Millicent Winter in a local production of the hit Broadway musical Nice Work If You Can Get It this year. However, she was replaced from the cast after she was found unconscious backstage at the theater where she was scheduled to perform and rushed to the hospital. She later took to Facebook to explain the cause of her medical emergency and deny reports of being in a coma.

"I am happy to report I am not, nor have I been, in a coma," Harper wrote at the time. "As anyone who has taken strong medication knows, it doesn't always agree with you, even with me as this experience proves."

2016: During ET's last interview with Harper to promote her role in the short film My Mom and the Girl, she opened up about her "great, long" life. 

"You wake up and go, 'Oh! I'm here, another day to live!'" Harper shared. "I've had a great long [life], and great stuff's happened to me and my darling husband [Tony Cacciotti]."

"Somebody said, 'You have the lung cancer,' and then that went away surgically and now, 'You have this other thing that usually happens years before lung cancer and it's in the lining of the brain,'" she continued. "There's 200 different kinds of cancer, so I'm just going my way."

2017: In an interview with Fox News, Harper stressed that she would continue to fight despite her health issues.

"People are saying, 'She's on her way to death and quickly,'" the actress said. "Now it's five years instead of three months… And the thing is, everyone is going to die in one way or another. So why don’t you fight it? I’m going to fight this. I’m going to see a way."

2019: Harper's husband revealed in July that doctors recommended he move his wife to hospice care amid her cancer battle. However, regardless of the advice, Cacciotti explained that he had no plans to do so and planned to be by her side and care for her for as long as he was able.

"We will continue going forward as long as the powers above allow us, I will do my very best in making Val as comfortable as possible," he said in a statement on Facebook. 

On Aug. 30, Harper's daughter, Cristina, confirmed her mother's death, tweeting a statement on behalf of her father. 

"My dad has asked me to pass on this message: 'My beautiful caring wife of nearly 40 years has passed away at 10:06am, after years of fighting cancer. She will never, ever be forgotten. Rest In Peace, mia Valeria. -Anthony.'" the message read.

For more on Harper's legacy and time on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, watch below.

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