Monday 20 August 2018

Thousands help Irish teen (16) celebrate birthday doctors said she would never see

Leona O'Neill

A terminally ill teenager says she has been overwhelmed by the thousands of cards she received for a birthday doctors said she would not see.

Alexandra Johnston, who has Ewings Sarcoma Cancer, put out a call for birthday cards recently. The Derry girl, who turned 16 yesterday, was hoping to break a world record for the amount of cards received.

Brave Alexandra, who was first diagnosed in 2013 and given just three months to live, says she wanted to mark the milestone she was told she would not survive to see.

Just days later, cards began flooding in from as far away as America and Australia wishing her well on her New Year's Day birthday.

Boxes and boxes of cards, messages and presents from strangers sit in her parent's Claudy home. As she celebrated her birthday yesterday she thanked all those who took time out to wish her well.

"Oh my goodness, I was so overwhelmed by all the cards," Alexandra said.

"I sat at midnight on the day of my birthday and opened about 170 of them, reading out the lovely messages from all over the world.

"I had to go to bed at 2am and I'd guess there was over a thousand still to read and more to come in over the next few days.

"We didn't even make a dent in them on my birthday.

"There was no post on Sunday or Monday, my actual birthday, so today will be mad. God love the postman!"

Alexandra has astounded medical staff and family with her resilience since being told her cancer was terminal.

Four years ago, her parents were told to take their daughter home and have the best Christmas ever because she was not expected to survive.

But Alexandra, or Ya Ya as she is affectionately known, beat all the odds.

With 100 rounds of chemotherapy under her belt, her family call her their 'walking miracle'.

"I think my 16th birthday is really special," Alexandra added.

"I've always thought that people should make a big deal of their 16th birthday. I think it's even more special for me because four years ago we were told that I wouldn't make my 12th birthday, so to reach my 16th birthday is a big, big thing in this house.

"I've had so many messages in the cards to say people are thinking of me, they think I am a warrior and an inspiration. It does your heart good.

"But I just don't really understand that it's me that they are talking about, I think they are talking about someone else."

Alexandra said people from as far away as Australia, America and Canada had sent cards.

She added: "The cards I got are from all over and I haven't even opened them all.

"There were people from England, Australia, America, Canada, all over Ireland and Scotland. It is just crazy.

"I just want to say a huge thank you to all those who took the time to write and send me a card. It is unbelievable to think that strangers who have never met me could do this.

"It's amazing. Some of them wrote really beautiful messages and words of encouragement. They were wishing me well for the future. It's so lovely and I'm so thankful."

If you would like to send Alexandra a birthday card, you can still post it to her at 6 Miller's Close, Claudy, Northern Ireland, BT47 4UF.

Belfast Telegraph

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