"I won’t because of the amazing good deeds she has graced us with while she’s been here on earth,” Cacciotti wrote.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on July 15, 2022. It has since been updated.
Valerie Harper, born on August 22, 1939, began her career as a chorus girl and dancer on Broadway. In 1959, she starred in Li'l Abner. Since then, there's been no looking back for her in terms of her career. She first made her debut on The Mary Tyler Moore Show in 1970. After her big break, she decided to get in shape for the 1979 movie Chapter Two. That is when she met the American actor, producer, and author Tony Cacciotti, who was once a celebrity trainer. She married him in 1987, nine years after she finalized her divorce from her first husband, actor Richard Schaal, according to PEOPLE.
In 2009, Harper was first diagnosed with early lung cancer, and she was in remission. Four years later, in 2013, she was diagnosed with leptomeningeal carcinomatosis. The disease develops when cancerous cells invade the meninges, the fluid-filled membrane that surrounds the brain.
This time the doctors told her that she had as little as 3 months to live. However, she beat the odds and went on to live another six years. She died on August 30, 2019.
Amidst her battle with cancer, doctors had advised Cacciotti to put her in a hospice, but he wasn't willing to give up on his wife. “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,” he wrote in a Facebook post on July 23, 2019.
“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,” Cacciotti wrote. “For those of you who have been in this position, you will totally understand that ‘it’s hard letting go,’” he continued. “So as long as I’m able and capable, I’ll be where I belong right beside her.”
“Many, many thanks for your outpouring of kindness and support,” Cacciotti finished before signing the note with “Tony”.
“I just didn’t want to put her into hospice care and now we’re going to be able to keep her here at home,” Cacciotti then told PEOPLE. “She’s hanging in there. We have good days and we have tough days.” In September 2017, during an interview with Fox News, Harper said, “I happen to have a fabulous caregiver who is my husband, Tony Cacciotti. He’s been taking care of everything. Everything in my life. It’s just the most wonderful thing. In fact, my husband doesn’t let me go anywhere alone. He drives me everywhere. He’s incredible."
About being given three months to live, she said: “People are saying, ‘She’s on her way to death and quickly.’ “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.”
In 2014, a year after her diagnosis, Harper told PEOPLE she was at peace with death. “I’m ready. I’m ready to go,” she said. “Maybe that’s the secret. That I’m absolutely — I don’t want to, my God, I want to live to be 102. … But I am not banking on anything, really, because we shouldn’t. We don’t know what’s around the corner. I think you just take each day and get the best out of it and do what you can and have fun.” Cacciotti has continued to love Harper by keeping her memories alive and updating her Facebook fans. He took to Harper's page on her birthday in 2021 to celebrate her posthumous birthday.
Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Frederick M. Brown