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'Mob Wives' star Angela "Big Ang" Raiola wanted to spread awareness that cigarettes killed her, says Dr. Oz

By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 02/18/2016 

Mob Wives star Angela "Big Ang" Raiola blamed her battle with cancer on smoking cigarettes and the reality TV star, who just died on Thursday, spoke about the addiction in a Tuesday interview with Dr. Mehmet Oz.

Raiola was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung and brain cancer in December, and she chose to discuss the shock of her illness in a "raw" and "authentic" interview on The Dr. Oz Show earlier this week. Raiola passed away two days after the episode aired at age 55.

"She was scared. Which is always a sign that -- people know more about their bodies than any test will tell you," Dr. Oz told People. "What the patient tells you is more accurate than what you can guess. She had been beaten down over the last year."

Raiola was a lifelong smoker and her health crisis began last March when doctors informed her that she had throat cancer. She reportedly quit smoking on the spot and underwent multiple surgeries that were successful, however, the cancer returned two months after she was declared cancer-free in October.

"When that happens, emotionally, the up and down, it tires you out. The exhaustion took a toll on her. The third cancer had metastasized to the brain and the adrenal gland," Oz told the magazine.

"That's a much worse scenario. They put her on aggressive chemo, which failed. In the setting of that, she came on [the show] to get people to appreciate that this dumb cigarette addiction she picked up as a young woman, she wanted people to see the anguish in her face, as she was clear about the fact that cigarettes killed her."

Oz revealed that Raiola chose experimental immunotherapy -- which he dubbed "a Hail Mary pass" -- over continuing chemotherapy treatments. But on the morning of her first appointment, a new lung problem had developed.

"Chemo kills off cells. Because the cancer cells grow faster than yours, then it kills them more quickly. But it's an older treatment. A wiser treatment is to turn your immune system on. Your immune system should always catch a cancer. Everybody reading the article has cancer, but their immune system is strong enough to catch that cancer and kill it," Oz explained.

"But when it's weakened from poor nutrition and cigarettes, it doesn't catch it, and the cells prosper. The ability to use the immunotherapy to jump start the immune system would be valuable."

Raiola also disclosed on Dr. Oz's show that she split from her estranged husband Neil Murphy because he "never stepped up to the plate," however, People reported Murphy remained at her bedside until her death.

"What really matters at the end of the day is the family. The family had kept her afloat. Taken her to the doctors. Done everything. Part of the reason she left her husband is she realized she was taking care of him. She was done focusing on him, she needed to focus on her," Oz said.

"It had been recent. It was a firm decision... These are difficult decisions to make, but when your life is at risk, you make those difficult decisions you have been putting off."

Despite her poor condition, Raiola apparently wanted to spread awareness about the dangers of smoking cigarettes.

"The chance of stopping cigarettes is less than 10 percent on your own," Oz revealed.

"But you can double that with medical support: medications or therapy. Within hours of stopping cigarettes, your blood pressure drops, your lung function improves, and you see dramatic reductions in other risks. It takes years for other risks to go away, but you see benefits really quickly."

Raiola first appeared on Mob Wives in 2012 and later landed two spinoffs Big Ang and Miami Monkey.

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