Angela 'Big Ang' Raiola

Angela “Big Ang” Raiola, star of reality hit Mob Wives, has died at the age of 55. She was struggling with cancer of the lungs and brain and passed away surrounded by friends and family at a hospital in Manhattan.

A statement released on Twitter informed fans and well-wishers of her death, adding that the star had been surrounded by “nothing but love” for her final hours.

Just days before – on February 16 – Big Ang had appeared in an emotional interview on the Dr Oz Show, talking about the reality of living with the disease and her fears for the future.   

Talking frankly, Raiola spoke of the confusion she suffered from being informed cancer had returned. “I can’t make sense of this,” she said.

A smoker for some 40 years, the star had had cancer of the throat before October last year. Doctors removed a tumour and it was thought she was disease-free. Subsequently, a stage four lung and brain cancer was diagnosed.

Big Ang became famous as a cast member on Staten Island docu-reality show Mob Wives. With real-life ties to a Genovese crime family, the famous star saw her show spawn two spin-offs on VH1 – Miami Monkey, and Big Ang. For Miami Monkey, the cameras followed her while she opened a branch of her Staten Island bar, the Drunken Monkey, in Florida.

Her sister, Janice Detore, set up a GoFundMe page last month to raise money for cancer treatment and alleviation of pain. So far, funds mentioned the amount to more than $45,000. The original target was only $25,000.

Big Ang made the announcement recently that she had separated from her husband of six years, Neil Murphy, blaming his lack of support for her throughout her cancer fight. She leaves behind two children – Raquel and Anthony Donofrio – as well as six grandchildren.