brightcove.createExperiences(); Mob Wives star Angela “Big Ang” Raiola died early Thursday after a difficult battle with throat, lung and brain cancer. She was 55.
“It is with sad regret that we inform you that at 3:01 a.m. Angelia Raiola peacefully ended her battle with cancer, and was called home,” according to a post on her Twitter page from friend Vinnie Medugno.
“She was surrounded by nothing but love from her immediate family, and the closest friends. YOU, (her fans) were some of the most special people in the world, and she loved you immensely. Thank you for your love, prayers, and unconditional support of Angela right to the very end.”
The statement continued, “She truly went out richer than any monetary value could ever amount to. The family asks for privacy and peace during this most difficult time. In typical Big Ang fashion, we knew she would say ‘Love you my babies!’ This page will remain open as a celebration of who she was and will always be.”
Raiola is survived by her husband Neil Murphy, two children and six grandchildren.
“We are all heartbroken about the passing of our ‘Big Ang.’ Angela Raiola was an incredibly strong, one-of-a-kind woman who taught us all to enjoy life to the fullest,” VH1 tells PEOPLE in a statement. “We send our deepest sympathies to Angela’s family and ask that her fans keep them in their thoughts as well.”
The niece of Salvatore “Sally Dogs” Lombardi (a captain of New York’s infamous Genovese crime family), Raiola made her Mob Wives debut in 2012 and later appeared on her own spin-offs, Big Ang and Miami Monkey.
Doctors first found a lemon-sized tumor in Raiola’s throat, for which she had two surgeries, in March 2015.
“Things happen for a reason,” Raiola told PEOPLE in September. “I’d smoked for 40 years. No one could tell me what to do.”
But her sister Janine Detore revealed in early February that Raiola had been hospitalized for stage 4 lung and brain cancer, and, after a little less than a month of chemotherapy, one tumor had increased in size and the other remained unchanged.
Medugno also posted several photos with the reality star on social media in the wake of her death, sharing Raiola’s personal motto, “I’m not here for a long time, I’m here for a good time!”
“Everything with you was exactly what those words embodied. You lived by your own mantra,” he wrote. “I will love you, cherish you, and hold you in my heart wherever I go, and whatever I do. Thank you for being a major part of my life. You’ve taught and brought so much to me. Sleep peacefully, and kiss my grandmother. Goodbye my love!”
The Real Housewives of New Jersey star Teresa Giudice also took to social media to honor Raiola, writing, “Such sad news, gone way too soon. Rest in peace angel. #kisstheonesyoulove.”
Just a few weeks ago, Detore started a GoFundMe page to raise money for alternative treatments like cannabis oil – and surpassed the $25,000 goal in just two days.