January 1 holds obvious significance. It’s the beginning of a new year, and an opportunity to evaluate choices and decisions and look towards a brighter future. Hoopla abounds.
But the first day of the year holds a far different significance for teenager Alexandra Johnston of Ireland. It’s her birthday, and every one she gets is a precious gift to her and her family.
Alexandra has lived her life constantly defying expectations. In 2013, only 11 years old at the time, she was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma Cancer. The outlook was grim.
Doctors told her parents that their daughter was terminally ill and had three months left to live. Since then, Alexandra has undergone over 100 rounds of chemotherapy, and continues to beat the odds.
Alexandra Johnston was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma Cancer at age 11. She was given only three months to live.
On January 1, 2018, Alexandra celebrated her 16th birthday. The magnitude hasn’t been lost on her family, who affectionately refer to her as a “walking miracle.”
“I think my 16th birthday is really special,” Alexandra told the Belfast Telegraph. “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.”
In the spirit of the monumental occasion, Alexandra decided to try and immortalize her success in the world record books.
Having beaten the odds and celebrating her 16th birthday, Alexandra wanted to break the record for receiving the most birthday cards.
Alexandra’s father Andrew says that his daughter put up a post on Facebook, and days later the cards started pouring in.
“I’ll have to make a space in the garage for them all,” he tells the Belfast Telegraph.
The current record is unofficially held by Shane Bernier, who received over five million birthday cards from 36 countries around the world when turning eight in 2007.
But that hasn’t deterred Alexandra, and her father thinks she has a shot at breaking the record.
“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,” he said.
Alexandra still doesn’t know how many cards she has received, but she has been overwhelmed by the volume so far.
Cards have been coming in at rapid-fire speed. She opened as many as she could on the day of her actual birthday, but still has a number that have gone unopened.
“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,” said Alexandra.
“We didn’t even make a dent in them on my birthday,” she added.
The mail resumes delivery the day after her birthday, and she’s expecting the biggest delivery of cards yet.
“There was no post on Sunday or Monday, my actual birthday, so today will be mad. God love the postman!”
While the number of cards Alexandra has received is impressive and encouraging, it’s the messages written inside that are truly an inspiration.
“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.”
To many, Alexandra has become a symbol of overcoming adversity. By refusing to accept her fate, she has impressed and inspired people around the world.
“There were people from England, Australia, America, Canada, all over Ireland and Scotland,” Alexandra said. “It is just crazy.”
Her family says she isn’t slowing down, and continues to fight, refusing to let her circumstances dictate her happiness.
“She’s the most incredible young woman,” her father said. “She is always astounding us.”