Alexandra Johnston, the Derry teenager who won the hearts of thousands at home and abroad during her five year battle with a rare form of cancer, passed away yesterday.
The popular 16-years-old, affectionately known as ‘Ya Ya’ by everyone who knew her, was surrounded by family when she died after taking seriously ill over recent days.
Her father, Andre, told the ‘Journal’ last night that he and his wife, Karen, and Alexandra’s four siblings were “beyond devastated.”
Andre said he was “so, so proud” to have Alexandra as a daughter.
“She had a magnetic personality and she touched everybody she ever met,” he said.
“Even the nurses in the hospital over the past 72 hours said they were in complete awe at her bravery. When I travelled in the ambulance with her, I watched her talking to the paramedics and my heart was just bursting at this amazing young woman and the way she carried herself. She will never, ever be forgotten.
“When the consultant who was treating her spoke to us, he said he couldn’t believe her strength. Alexandra was beautiful inside and out. She was our beauty.”
Brave Alexandra was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a type of bone cancer, in 2013 and, at that time, doctors gave her just months to live. However, she defied the odds by confronting her condition head-on and this battling spirit was still evident earlier this month when, to mark her 16th birthday, she issued a worldwide appeal for birthday cards.
During the course of her illness, Alexandra also met her pop idols, ‘One Direction,’ and spent time with one of the stars of her favourite television show, ‘Sons of Anarchy.’
Andre says his daughter – a past pupil of St. Cecilia’s College who had been studying at St. Patrick’s and St Brigid’s, Claudy, when she died – would be remembered for being ‘full of life.’
“We saw how much strength and courage it took and she had her own personal illnesses along the way, too, but she never, ever gave up,” he said.
“She was always full of life. She loved meeting people and she loved her make-up. She was always buying make-up. She was a warrior and she fought through everything and in the very end she didn’t suffer. She died in my arms and she went peacefully. I just don’t know what we’ll do without her. Inspirational doesn’t even begin to cover what our Alexandra was. We won’t let her name be forgotten.”
Alexandra’s funeral will take place from St. Columb’s Church, Chapel Road, on Sunday at 2.30pm. Her family have appealed for privacy at their home on Sunday morning.
Alexandra is survived by her parents, Andre and Karen, her sisters, Danica and Carly and brothers, Ryan and Callum.