Harper died on Friday after a long battle with cancer

By Robyn Merrett
August 30, 2019 09:58 PM
Valerie Harper and Daughter Cristina Cacciotti
Joe Kohen/WireImage

Valerie Harper‘s daughter is breaking her silence on her mother’s death.

On Friday, following news that Harper died at the age of 80, Cristina Cacciotti shared a heartwarming message on behalf of her father Tony Cacciotti.

“My dad has asked me to pass on this message: ‘My beautiful caring wife of nearly 40 years has passed away at 10:06 a.m., after years of fighting cancer,'” Cristina wrote on Twitter.

“She will never, ever be forgotten. Rest In Peace, mia Valeria. — Anthony.”

Harper battled health issues, including leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, lung cancer and brain cancer, for many years.

And throughout Harper’s struggles, Cacciotti, her husband of 32 years, remained by her side. He took it upon himself to ensure that his wife was as comfortable as possible in some of the final moments of her life.

RELATED: From the Mary Tyler Moore Show to Broadway and Rhoda: Valerie Harper’s Life in Photos

Last month, Cacciotti revealed how doctors had advised that his wife be moved to hospice care amid her battle with cancer.

Despite their professional opinion, Cacciotti said he was not willing to listen to them because of how much he adored Harper and vowed to do what he deemed best for 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.

While the couple’s friend Deanna started a GoFundMe on Harper’s behalf over a month before her death, the page, which had raised over $66,100 from Harper’s friends, family, and beloved fans, was shut down after members of the entertainment industry stepped forward to help with Harper’s medical expenses.

Tony Cacciotti and Valerie Harper
Walter McBride/Getty Images

“She did so much for so many people and once they heard what was happening, they all started coming forward,” Cacciotti told PEOPLE about the support he and Harper had received. “Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine it would happen like this. It’s really amazing.”

“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 added. “She’s hanging in there. We have good days and we have tough days.”

The actress was diagnosed with leptomeningeal carcinomatosis in 2013, just four years after she beat lung cancer in 2009. The condition occurs when cancer cells spread into the fluid-filled membrane surrounding the brain, known as the meninges.

At the time of her diagnosis, doctors told her she only had three months to live, but Harper beat the odds and continued to live well beyond their expectations by six years.

Valerie Harper
David Livingston/Getty Images

RELATED: Ed Asner Speaks Out After ‘Great Friend’ Valerie Harper’s Death: ‘Goodnight Beautiful’

Harper married Cacciotti, who who was her former fitness advisor, in 1987, nine years after she finalized her divorce with her first husband, actor Richard Schaal.

When she first met Cacciotti, Harper told PEOPLE in 1980, “I thought, ‘What a beautiful, giving teacher.’ Although I’m a feminist and think it’s terrific to call a man if you’re comfortable, I don’t do it. I don’t set my cap for a guy unless he makes the first move.”

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