Belfast Telegraph

Battling Derry teen Alexandra bids for birthday card record

By Leona O'Neill

A terminally ill Londonderry teenager is hoping to break the world record for the number of birthday cards received ahead of a special day she never imagined she would reach.

Fifteen-year-old Alexandra Johnston is living with Ewing's sarcoma and has had the disease in almost every part of her body.

When first diagnosed in 2013 she was given just three months to live, but she has astounded medical staff and family with her resilience.

Four years and more than 30 rounds of chemotherapy later, her family call her their "walking miracle".

Now the brave girl who beat all the odds is looking to break the world record for birthday cards as she turns 16 on New Year's Day.

"Alexandra took a notion that she wanted to do something to see how many birthday cards she could get," said her father, Andrew.

"She has so many people following her journey - particularly after she met with Sons of Anarchy star Opie and the video of her being made an honorary member of a Northern Irish biker gang went viral earlier this year - that she very well could break a world record.

"That is what she is going for. I'll have to make a space in the garage for them all. She put up a post on Facebook last week and she got her first card from America a few days later and a few more since. She's waiting to open them all on her birthday."

Andrew says his daughter's determination is an example to the whole family. "She's the most incredible young woman," he added.

"Last week the power of her legs had gone and she couldn't lift her legs from the hospital bed, she was using a wheelchair to get about, which she hated.

"She has been very, very sick this last while.

"Things looked pretty grim, but last Sunday she got up and walked into a Christmas party on crutches. She is always astounding us."

Just before Christmas 2013, doctors told the family she had three months to live and to go and make memories for them to cherish.

"Four years later she is still bouncing on," added her dad.

"Her determination is unbelievable.

"This is a special birthday for us.

"We didn't think she would see her 16th birthday, that is why we want to make it extra special.

"Because she is 16 now and because she has been so sick, I think she wanted to do something unique and original, to set herself another goal, a challenge, to have something to look forward to."

Alexandra, who has been in and out of the Royal Victoria Hospital receiving treatment over the past number of weeks, is now back at her Claudy home, resting and looking forward to her big day. "It is a nightmare for us all, it really is, but when Alexandra is good, she is good. Her strength and determination is just mind-blowing," he added.

"At the moment she has no appetite but she is forcing herself to eat to make herself stronger. She is in a better place than she was three weeks ago and we thought it was getting worse rather than better.

"Our doctor was devastated when he saw her, we all were, but she just keeps going and going.

"We don't know what the road ahead will bring. We just take it day by day, that's all we do. She has defied the odds every time and she is still planning well ahead in her life, she is so positive and is pushing it aside all the time.

"I think the card idea is coming from the fact that it's a birthday landmark that she never thought she'd see.

"I think she wants to see how far her story will go around the world. God help the postman!"

The current world record for the most birthday cards received is held by Canadian Shane Bernier, who was given five million cards from people in 36 different countries.

If you'd like to send Alexandra a birthday card for her big day on January 1, 2018, you can post it to her at 6 Miller's Close, Claudy, Northern Ireland, BT47 4UF.

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