Alexsandra Bilotti, a College junior, died early Saturday morning of Ewing’s sarcoma. She turned 22 years old last Wednesday.

Alexsandra, known to her friends and family as Alex, was a Philadelphia Mayor’s Scholar and member of Penn’s Zeta Tau Alpha sorority.

“Alex is the air that I breathe. She was every breath that I take and she was my sunshine,” Sandy Bilotti, Alex Bilotti’s mother, said. “She was my hero. She was all that I wanted to be in my life. I wanted to be like her and she just gave me strength and she gave me lots of love. I don’t know what I’m going to do the rest of my life without her.”

Ewing’s sarcoma is a rare form cancer that affects the body’s bones and tissues. Bilotti was diagnosed at age 11, and she fought the disease for 10 years and eight months. After going into remission for a few years and nearly being considered a survivor, her cancer returned in 2009.

“She always set goals in life and that’s what got her through a lot of this,” her mother said. “The day she found out she got into Penn was one of her happiest days.”

Over the course of her illness and its extensive treatment, Bilotti was held back a grade and took off a semester from Penn. After taking some time off again this spring, she had hoped to return to Penn in the fall.

“Alex was an amazing young woman who is going to be missed by the chapter,” Zeta chapter president Julia Peng said on behalf of the sorority in an email. “When Alex first joined Zeta, we learned of her diagnosis. It made our philanthropy even more personal for us, and we will do everything we can to honor her not only in our hearts, but also in our philanthropic work in years to come.”

“I cannot recall a moment with her when she was not beaming with positivity, even throughout the ups and downs of her illness,” Zeta member and College senior Genna Garofalo, who spoke on behalf of herself and not the sorority, said in an email. “Alex was one of the strongest and most beautiful people I have ever had the pleasure to know. Her bravery and light will forever inspire all who had the privilege of knowing her.”

Doctors and nurses came to Bilotti’s bedside throughout the day on Friday, thanking her for touching and changing their lives, Bilotti’s mother said.

“I can’t say enough. A million words couldn’t explain Alex.”

A viewing will be held on Saturday, Feb. 28., at the National Shrine of Saint Rita of Cascia on Broad Street in South Philadelphia, and will begin at 8 a.m. A mass will follow in the church at 11 a.m.

City News Editor Lauren Feiner contributed reporting.

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