FOR her 70th birthday, PENNY MARSHALL received the greatest present of all – the gift of life.

The “Laverne & Shirley” star threw a huge bash at her Hollywood Hills home for her milestone birthday, which she never expected to see.

A family friend revealed that the teary-eyed actress told guests: “If you would have asked me a few years ago if I thought I was going to make it to my 70th birthday, I would have said no way.”

That’s because Penny was given just months to live four years ago!

As The ENQUIRER reported exclusively in November 2009, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor and a cancerous tumor in her liver after falling ill following a plane flight from Los Angeles to New York.

The celebrated actress/ director struggled through chemotherapy, but after being told she was in remission the disease returned and she began her grueling struggle all over again.

“With the support of her family and close pals, she never gave up fighting for her life,” said an insider.

At the party, Penny told everyone she is “fine” and is looking at scripts so she can return to directing.

Celebrity friends, including Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco and Carrie Fisher, were on hand to help the funnylady celebrate.

“Penny gave a toast to thank all of them,” noted the family friend. “She said she loved them for standing by her and giving her the strength to keep fighting for her life.”