Valerie Harper Reveals How She Has Survived a Fatal Cancer Diagnosis

In this week's issue of People, Valerie Harper offered updates on how she's stayed happy and healthy for almost five years after doctors told her she had three months to live.

The iconic sitcom actress from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, as well as the spin-off where she played the title character, Rhoda, was reportedly all smiles as she talked with reporters in her Santa Monica home about her lucky string of experimental treatments and lifestyle choices.

In 2009, Harper fought and won against lung cancer. However, in 2013, she received a new diagnosis -- a rare form of cancer called leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, where the cancer spreads to the membrane surrounding the brain. The disease is fast-moving and incurable.

As a hail Mary, doctors put Harper on a new chemotherapy drug designed for this type of cancer, and it held the disease at bay for all these years. Earlier this past year, Harper began experiencing symptoms again -- suffering seizures and problems with her cognitive function. Once again, doctors prescribed her an experimental drug, and it did the trick.

"Valerie developed this disease at a time when we keep coming up with stronger and better targeting drugs for her particular cancer," one of her doctors told People. "The longer we keep her alive the more options we have."

However, Harper says the drugs are only part of it.

She attributes her longevity to her husband, Tony Caccioti. Caccioti is a former personal trainer to stars and A-listers, and Harper says that he keeps her on track.


"He does everything for me, drives me everywhere, makes sure I'm eating healthy, walking and lifting weights. Really, he's the best nudge in the world."

Harper has even managed to keep working since her diagnosis. She made recent guest spots on both The Simpsons and American Dad, and last year she appeared in a short film.