“Mary took a turn yesterday, and Buddy rushed back to New Jersey last night to be by her side,” Valastro’s rep tells PEOPLE in an exclusive statement. “She passed early this morning, June 22nd, surrounded by all of her children. Mary’s condition had been steadily worsening these past months, so it was not sudden but still extremely heartbreaking for the family. After eight years of fighting her battle with ALS, the family is relieved she is no longer suffering. Buddy and his sisters are absolutely crushed right now.”
The TLC star, 40, shared his grief in a poignant Instagram post Thursday.
“It’s with an extremely heavy heart that I must share the news of my mother’s passing,” the Carlo’s Bakery owner captioned a throwback photo with his mother. “She left for heaven this morning, surrounded by the family. This is a difficult time for all of us and I do ask for your patience and respect while we let this sink in. Her battle with ALS has ended, she is no longer suffering and I hope she’s dancing to ‘I Will Survive’ with my dad right now.”
After Mary was diagnosed with the neurodegenerative disease, which affects nerves in the brain and spinal cord, Valastro launched the Mama Mary Foundation to raise money and awareness for those affected by ALS.
Watch: See What Cake Boss Buddy Valastro Really Cooks for Dinner
Valastro previously opened up to PEOPLE about his mother’s life with Lou Gehrig’s in 2014, when he participated in the viral “Ice Bucket Challenge.”
“The worst part about ALS is that one day you’re able to brush your teeth, then you’ll never be able to brush your teeth again. One day you’re able to walk – you’re never going to walk again,” he said at the time.“I’ve seen the most independent, lively person that I’ve ever met in my life — I mean, she was just like a ball of energy — reduced to not being able to do anything for herself. And I think that’s the part that kills her the most because she was the matriarch. She did so many things for everyone.”