Angela "Big Ang" Raiola's cancer has spread to her brain and lungs
brightcove.createExperiences(); When the stars of Mob Wives gathered last week to tape their final reunion special, there was no shortage of drama.
“The girls definitely got heated, and emotions were high,” a source tells PEOPLE exclusively in this week’s issue.
But by that point, Angela “Big Ang” Raiola – a fan favorite known as the “peacemaker” among the ladies who’s battling stage 4 cancer – had left the studio, sticking it out for about half of the 10-hour shoot.
“Her spirits were up,” Renee Graziano tells PEOPLE. “She was looking fantastic and keeping positive,”
The cast stayed civil during the first half of the 10-hour shoot out of respect for Raiola, Karen Gravano says.
“Most of us have known each other way before the show started and I care for Ang very deeply, so when it comes to her health, we are putting our differences aside and fighting this fight with her,” she tells PEOPLE.
[IMAGE “2” “” “std” ]Adds new cast member Brittany Fogarty: “Ang is one of the most loving people I have ever met. She is a strong woman with a beautiful spirit, and I’m praying for her to overcome this battle.”
Raiola, 55, underwent two surgeries to treat a lemon-sized tumor from her throat last year – only to learn that the disease has spread to her lungs and brain, and the chemotherapy isn’t working.
Her sister Janine Detore has raised more than $43,500 for alternative treatments via a GoFundMe page started Feb. 2 – but there’s also been a backlash on social media.
“People think because you’re on television you’re under protection, you’re loaded. Ang, I’m not saying she’s not well off, but when situations arise like this, it’s very costly,” Natalie DiDonato, a recurring guest in season 5, tells PEOPLE, calling the negativity “crazy.”
“Ang is a good person. Nobody deserves this, but she’s just the life of the party, she’s bubbly and she’s fun and she’s sweet. She’s extremely successful, she’s always getting booked, and she’s got more energy than most 21-year-olds I know,” she adds. “Her family right now is the one ones that really know what’s going on, but stage 4 and then brain and lung cancer is, that’s a nightmare. She’s always doing charity, she’s always giving back, she’s always doing things for other people, and you have to almost ask yourself, ‘Why me?’ ”
VIDEO: Big Ang Thanks Fans as She Battles Stage 4 Lung and Brain Cancer
But no matter what, her castmates are sticking by her side.
“My heart is broken just knowing Ang has to go through this but she’s a fighter!” Drita D’Avanzo says. “I have faith and believe in my heart that she will win this battle! I love her and wish her a quick recovery.”
• For much more on Big Ang’s cancer battle, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now
Raiola’s diagnosis is especially upsetting because she just welcomed a sixth grandchild, 2-week-old baby girl Anjolie Scotto.
“She loves those babies so much. I just wish her all the time in the world to watch them grow up,” says Love Majewski, who starred in season 3 of Mob Wives and appears in season 6. “She’s brought so much light and joy to so many people. Ang’s enthusiasm is infectious, her laughter is contagious, and I am so grateful that I enjoyed so many years as her friend before we were on TV. Everyone needs a little Ang in their lives. I know she is going to beat cancer.”
And it seems Raiola isn’t letting the disease dull her over-the-top style, either: Majewski says she sent her a care package with two bottles of bronzer, as requested.
“I ask you, does that sound like a woman that’s giving up? Hell no!” she says. “She’s in the best possible frame of mind, looking forward to being healthy and looking good! It made me happy that a simple thing like makeup was on her mind. She’s still bubbly as ever. So I wish her well, but I know she’s going to be okay.”
Mob Wives airs Wednesdays (8 p.m. ET) on VH1.