Mary Valastro passed away on Thursday morning after battling ALS for eight years.

By Ana Calderone
June 22, 2017 04:47 PM

Buddy Valastro‘s friends and family are sharing touching tributes to his mother Mary Valastro after she passed away on Thursday morning.

Mary suffered from ALS and fought the neurodegenerative disease, which affects nerves in the brain and spinal cord, for more than eight years. She was 69 when she died.

“It’s with an extremely heavy heart that I must share the news of my mother’s passing,” Buddy captioned a throwback photo with his mother on Instagram. “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.”

His friends Melissa Gorga and Geoffrey Zakarian both commented on his Instagram sharing their condolences. “I’m so sorry Buddy,” Gorga wrote with a broken heart emoji.

“Buddy, our prayers are with you this evening. Godbless your family. Geoffrey,” commented Zakarian.

Buddy’s wife Lisa also dedicated a post with a photo of the three of them. “Today my mother in law gained her angel wings she was a strong beautiful women who will be missed tremendously!!!” she wrote. “We love you very much and will miss you, but we know you will be watching over all of us in heaven.”

A representative for the Cake Boss star told PEOPLE that Mary passed surrounded by her children, including Buddy and his four sisters Lisa, Maddalena, Grace and Mary.

Lisa shared a photo with her mother on Instagram. “She is now in heaven with my dad… your strength and faith inspired many… will be forever loved and missed……❤️❤️❤️,” she wrote.

Maddalena shared her tribute on Twitter saying, “The passing of my mom this morning is not yet real. Mom you will always be with us, give dad a big kiss!”

Buddy’s nephew Joseph Sciarrone revealed his grandma got to spend her last day surrounded by her grandchildren.

“Even though i miss u so much already. I hope ur dancing to i will survive rn with grandpa buddy Im happy i saw u last night before it happened, i loved the smile on ur face,” he wrote on Instagram. “I love u so much thanks for everything u did for me.”

Another one of her grandchildren, Buddy Castano, echoed Sciarrone’s thoughts. “I am so happy I got to spend your last day with you which was filled with a million ‘I love you’s’ and ‘always stick together,'” he wrote. “You were the rock of this family, you were the heart of this family and you were the bond that held everyone together. Thank you for keeping us all close and teaching us the most important lesson in life which is family is everything.”

Buddy 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.”