Jackie Collins, the beloved best-selling novelist, has died, PEOPLE has exclusively learned.
“It is with tremendous sadness that we announce the death of our beautiful, dynamic and one of a kind mother, Jackie Collins, who died of breast cancer today,” the Collins family tells PEOPLE in a statement.
“She lived a wonderfully full life and was adored by her family, friends and the millions of readers who she has been entertaining for over 4 decades. She was a true inspiration, a trail blazer for women in fiction and a creative force. She will live on through her characters but we already miss her beyond words.”
Diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer six-and-a-half years ago, Collins, 77, chose to keep her illness almost entirely to herself, confiding primarily in her three daughters, Tracy, 54, Tiffany, 48, and Rory, 46.
Collins, who sat down with PEOPLE on Sept. 14 at her Beverly Hills home for what would be her last interview, had no regrets about the decision to keep her cancer journey private while she embraced a very full life until her very last days. “Looking back, I’m not sorry about anything I did,” she said during the far-ranging interview that saw her spirited, warm and utterly at peace.
“I did it my way, as Frank Sinatra would say. I’ve written five books since the diagnosis, I’ve lived my life, I’ve travelled all over the world, I have not turned down book tours and no one has ever known until now when I feel as though I should come out with it,” said Collins, whose treatments over the years included a lumpectomy, radiation and various drug courses and combinations.
“Now I want to save other people’s lives.”
While Collins was a prolific writer for over four decades – more than 500 million copies of her novels have been sold around the globe and her latest book, The Santangelos hit shelves in June – it was her family, including her sister, actress Joan Collins, brother, Bill, her daughters and six grandchildren that brought her the most pleasure.
“I love being with my family,” she said. “I love sitting out by the pool and watching my [grandkids] play.”
As for her daughters, she said last week, “I’m so proud of them” and, her voice breaking, Collins added, “I want them to feel secure and I want them to feel whatever happens, I’ll always be there.”
Memorial services in both the United States and the United Kingdom will be held privately. The Collins family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Organization (in the U.S.) and Penny Brohn Cancer Care (in the U.K.).
For more of Jackie Collins’ final interview and photo shoot – and for interviews with her daughters – please pick up PEOPLE, on stands on Friday