Valerie Harper's Husband Says Doctors Want His Wife in Hospice Care But He 'Can't' & 'Won't' Do It
Harper has been battling leptomeningeal carcinomatosis since 2013
In a Facebook post shared on Tuesday morning, Cacciotti, 78, revealed how doctors had advised that his wife of 32 years 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, 79, and vowed to keep his wife as comfortable as possible in some of the final moments of her life.
“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 the post.
While the couple’s friend Deanna started a GoFundMe on Harper’s behalf last week, the page, which had raised over $66,100 from Harper’s friends, family, and beloved fans, has since been shut down after members of the entertainment industry stepped forward to help with Harper’s medical expenses.
“She did so much for so many people and once they heard what was happening, they all started coming forward,” Cacciotti tells PEOPLE about the support he and Harper have 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 adds. “She’s hanging in there. We have good days and we have tough days.”
Harper, best known for her role as Rhoda Morgenstern on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, was diagnosed with leptomeningeal carcinomatosis in 2013.
The condition, which the star was diagnosed with just four years after she beat lung cancer in 2009, 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.
Because of how unbelievably rare her story is, Cacciotti said he refuses to give up on his wife.
“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 in the Facebook post. “There are two special ANGELS on this planet masquerading as humans who live and work together, that have made it possible to have all of Val’s needs taken care of.”
“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”.
The couple’s friend Deanna also left a note at the bottom of the post, writing, “We are so grateful for your love and support. I will continue to provide updates on Valerie’s Facebook page from time to time as we know that you will be thinking about her.”
In the description of the GoFundMe fundraiser she started, Deanna said Harper was receiving treatments on a daily basis, but noted how they had been “unrelenting,” “continuous” and not entirely covered under the actress’ health insurance.
“Valerie is currently taking a multitude of medications and chemotherapy drugs as well as going through extreme physical and painful challenges now with around the clock, 24/7 care immediately needed which is not covered by insurance,” she continued. “This is just part of the daily cost that is without a doubt a financial burden that could never be met alone.”
“This GoFundMe initiative [is] from Tony to ensure she receives the best care possible,” Deanna added. “Your care and support is greatly appreciated.”
Harper’s breakout role came in the 1970s while she was on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Her incredible performance as Rhoda Morgenstern earned her many awards, as well as her own spinoff show Rhoda, from 1974 to 1978.
The actress later went on to star in the 1980s sitcom Valerie, which was later titled Valerie’s Family and The Hogan Family, once Harper left the show.
After being diagnosed with leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, the actress defied the odds and lived beyond what doctors expected, but continued to undergo chemotherapy.
Speaking with PEOPLE in 2015, Harper explained that she was at peace with her diagnosis.
“I’m ready. I’m ready to go,” Harper admitted. “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.”
Harper also revealed to PEOPLE in 2017 that the secret to her survival was her devoted caregiver husband.
“He’s such a nudge,” the four-time Emmy-winner said of Cacciotti, her former personal trainer. “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.”