Valerie Harper on Cancer Part 2: Being Prepared for the End Can Free You to Live Now


For actress Valerie Harper, getting her affairs in order and making decisions about end-of-life issues after being diagnosed with inoperable cancer (see our previous post) was a necessary part of taking care of her family. But in making sure that she was prepared for the end of life when it came, she found a sense of peace that freed her to live life to the fullest.

In an interview published in the October/November 2013 of AARP Magazine, Valerie said she facing the possibility of death head on; but her husband, Tony Cacciotti, “didn’t want to discuss it.”

“Most people don’t do it because they think it’s never gonna happen to them or that by talking about death you speed up the process,” Tony said. But with coaxing from Valerie, the couple saw a lawyer to update their wills and draft healthcare directives spelling out the types of medical care they did and did not want to receive in their final days.

It was during those discusses when Valerie voiced a wish to be cremated that Tony was finally able to overcome his reluctance about dealing with end-of-life arrangements. “I wanted to be buried next to her,” he told AARP. “That meant I had to muster my fear and deal with the cemetery thing.” The couple chose a plot in Hollywood Forever where many of Hollywood’s most famous stars are buried and, to Valerie’s delight, peacocks roam the gardens. “It’s a life-giving place,” Valerie said.

Valerie encourages everyone, not just people undergoing cancer treatment, to talk to their families and discuss their wishes about life-and-death.