The actress, best known for her role as Rhoda Morgenstern on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, has been battling leptomeningeal carcinomatosis since 2013.

By Joelle Goldstein
July 18, 2019

‘s family is reaching out for financial help amid the actress’ fight for her life.

Harper’s husband and her longtime friend Deanna created a for the 79-year-old star last Monday in order to help with the costs of her expensive cancer treatments, PEOPLE confirms.

The iconic actress, best known for her role as Rhoda Morgenstern on , has been battling leptomeningeal carcinomatosis since 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, doctors told her she only had , but now, six years later, Harper is still continuing to receive daily treatments, which Deanna said has been “unrelenting,” “continuous” and not entirely covered under her health insurance.

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“Valerie has been grateful over the years for the medical breakthroughs along this difficult journey but insurance doesn’t cover everything,” she wrote on the GoFundMe campaign. “There are unrelenting medical costs on a continuous basis.”

“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.”

In a little over a week, the campaign has raised over $44,500 from Harper’s friends, family and beloved fans.

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Harper’s breakthrough role came in the 1970s when she played Rhoda Morgenstern on Her incredible performance in the role 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.

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In 2009, however, Harper was diagnosed with lung cancer. Four years after beating that disease, the star learned she had leptomeningeal carcinomatosis and was given three months to live.

Receiving the news initially, Harper recalled to PEOPLE, “I was stunned,” but went on to note, “And in the next minute I thought, ‘This could draw more attention to cancer research.’ I think there’s an opportunity to help people.”

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By some miracle, the actress defied the odds and lived beyond what doctors expected, but continued to undergo chemotherapy. Speaking with PEOPLE in 2015, Harper said she was “feeling good” despite her health.

“Sometimes I feel icky, but I’m feeling very good in New York,” she said. “Maybe because I’m working or I’m talking about cancer in a positive way – I think that might have something to do with it.”

“When I wake up in the morning I don’t say ‘Oh, I have cancer. I say ‘Another day. How you feeling? Good? Good,’” Harper continued. “And when I do have little twinges of something I go ‘Oh my god, is that a headache? What is that?’ And I say wait a day or two, it might just be a headache and usually, it is so far.”

At the time, the actress added that she was at .

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“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.”

In 2017, Harper also revealed to PEOPLE that the of 32 years.

“He’s such a nudge,” the four-time Emmy winner said of Cacciotti, 78, her former personal trainer who has since become her devoted caregiver. “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.”

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