Valerie Harper is confronting a terminal cancer diagnosis with a brave face, and she says her husband, Tony Cacciotti is her coach.
Harper sat down with Billy Bush and Kit Hoover on “Access Hollywood Live” to talk about her memoir, “I, Rhoda,” and share her struggles and triumphs as she faces a rare brain cancer, leptomeningeal carcinomatosis.
“I get terrified at night sometimes and think, ‘Oh my God, I’m gonna die,'” says Harper. “And if I feel like crying, I do. And if I feel like walking around the house and taking deep breaths, I do. I have experienced grief. And I find giving space for what your emotion is, that’s being here now. You must be afraid. Let yourself be afraid. Then the fear doesn’t have you. You have control in that moment.”
Valerie points out, “It’s not crazy to be afraid of death. No one wants to embrace it. I’m just saying, don’t let your fear of death rob your living now. You don’t need a cancer diagnosis to do that. You can just do that. You can just live that.”
Harper’s memoir reveals behind-the-scenes details about her 1970s sitcom, “Rhoda” and it’s predecessor, “The Mary Tyler Moore” show. She also describes in the book falling in love with hher husband, who started as her personal trainer. Valerie says though Cacciotti initially hid her cancer diagnosis from her, he is once again her “coach,” helping her to figure out how to keep living while she’s alive.
“He’s the love of my life and I don’t want to leave him,” Harper says of Cacciotti. “But I have to face what may be ahead. And he’s saying ‘let’s extend the time.’ He was my coach then, he’s my coach now, and he’s my beloved, loved heart. He’s just my heart.”
Harper says she worries that pressure on her brain may cause abnormal behavior and leave her husband and daughter in a lurch having to take care of her. She’s also concerned that funeral plans be set, so Tony won’t have to deal with them on his own.
On the bright side, Valerie says she’s been fielding job offers since her illness came to light. “I have been asked to do some jobs, which is wonderful,” says Harper. “And I’d be pleased to do it.”