A year ago, Alexandra Johnston (12), from Londonderry, was given just months to live. Now, she’s back at school. Mum Karen tells Stephanie Bell her favourite band and the power of prayer saved her life.


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Londonderry girl Alexandra Johnston is a walking miracle. This time last year the 12-year-old’s little body was so riddled with cancer that she was given between just three and six months to live.

The cancer was so widespread and advanced that even the consultant struggled with his emotions as he broke the news to Alexandra’s stunned parents that there was no hope for their adored little girl.

But after a punishing year undergoing the most intensive treatment, Alexandra has defied all odds to beat the cancer and join her friends at the start of term at St Celia’s School in the Creggan.

Her mum believes that her miraculous recovery is down to the power of prayer – aided also by her devotion to One Direction whom she managed to see three times when she was ill, even getting to meet them through the Make a Wish Foundation.

A life-size cut-out of her favourite band member, Niall Horan, was her constant companion in hospital during a tough year during which she went through seven courses of chemo, stem cell treatment, radiotherapy and 28 days in isolation.

Her overjoyed mum Karen says: “She really is a wee inspiration. She is doing wonderfully considering what she has been through and the fact that we were told we would lose her. I believe in prayer and I believe she was saved by the man above. She had her big scan at the end of July and the results showed she is in remission. She will never be completely clear but, after what we were told last year, it is a miracle.”

Alexandra was diagnosed with Grade 4 Ewing Sarcoma – a rare disease in which cancer cells are found in the bones or soft tissue. A scan showed a tumour the full length of her leg, a tumour in the back of her skull, one in her shoulder blades and cancer in two of the vertebrae in her spine, as well as nodules in her lungs.

Her mum believes the first signs began to appear as early as 2007 but the cancer was only picked up last August when she went for a private consultation for an ongoing pain in her ankle.

Karen (48) and husband Andre (47) had no choice but to give up their jobs as chefs so that Karen could be with Alexandra during treatment in Belfast.

Andre, meanwhile, cared for their two youngest children Callum (11) and Ryan (9) back home in Derry. They also have two grown-up girls, Danica (24) and Carly (23).

Karen recalls what they now believe was the start of their youngest daughter’s tough cancer battle six years before she was diagnosed.

"She broke her ankle on a trampoline in 2007 and then two more times in the next year, one by putting her foot in a pothole and the third time on a set of steps in school," she says.

"She had a lot of physio to rebuild the muscles in her leg. Everything seemed ok until the last month of school last year when she started to complain about pain in her ankle again."

Alexandra was brought to hospital in Coleraine where she was diagnosed with a floating bone in her leg which was causing infection.

However, over the next few days her leg began to swell and a concerned Karen brought her to her GP who sent her back to hospital suspecting a clot.

The hospital gave her an injection as a precaution against a clot and arranged for her to come back the next day for an ultrasound scan of her leg.

That was in June 2013 and Karen says: “Despite doing a full scan they didn’t pick up the tumour which has just left us dumbfounded.

"We were basically told that it was a floating bone and it would settle and go home and not to worry."

But they did have cause for concern as Alexandra was still in a lot of pain.

Unsure what to do, Karen and Andre decided to book a private consultation. An MRI scan was taken of Alexandra’s ankle and again they were told she had a floating bone in her ankle.

It was recommended that their daughter wear an air boot but the pain persisted and within just a couple of days had moved to Alexandra’s back.

Karen says: “My daddy, who had a heart attack a couple of years ago, was going for a consultation to the Ulster Independent Clinic and asked if he could take Alexandra with him.

"When we got there we asked if there would be anyone available to see her.

"They had a bone specialist who took one look at her leg and did an MRI scan which showed up a tumour the full length of her leg, wrapped around her tibia, fibia and her ankle."

A couple of days later in Musgrave Medical Centre, a full body scan revealed the extent to which cancer had spread through the child’s body.

"When the consultant came with the results to tell us he started to cry," Karen recalls. "The child’s body was absolutely riddled with cancer.

"He told us she had between three and six months left. You couldn’t describe what that feels like.

"We were told they would do all they could for her and chemo would start straight away.

"It was like our world had ended.

"There is a gap of 12 years between Alexandra and her older sisters and when she came along after all that time she just became our world. She was so spoiled and idolised and to get that news is just horrendous.

"Your world is turned upside down."

After two sessions of intensive chemotherapy there was astonishment and relief all around when scans showed that Alexandra’s tumours had responded well by shrinking.

She underwent a total of seven courses, then faced 28 lonely days in isolation for stem cell treatment to be carried out.

This was followed by a seven week course of radiotherapy in Belfast, which she underwent five days a week. Since then Alexandra has gone from strength to strength and after missing most of first year at her new secondary school, she was delighted to be able to join her friends at the start of the new term this month. It has been a long struggle but the family are now looking to the future.

The whole family is supporting the Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children in its campaign for Child Cancer Awareness Month, which runs throughout September.

They feel indebted to the charity for its support during Alexandra’s treatment, especially during the lonely days in isolation.

Karen says: “Initially whenever we were diagnosed, we were hit by a ton of bricks and life changed overnight, really.

"We both had to give up work, as I was practically living in Belfast, so it affects everybody.

"When she was going through chemotherapy and her stem cell transplant, Alexandra was kept in isolation for weeks to avoid picking up an infection.

"When you’re on that isolation unit, they’re not allowed out of the room at all, not even to go to the loo. It was an extremely lonely and hard time.

"One of the charity’s specialists came out to visit her twice a week in the ward which helped a lot. It allowed her to socialise with someone else as she was only having contact with her dad and I.

"It gave her the chance to discuss any worries or fears and really gave her a boost.

"The specialist also came out to our house to work with her when she got out of hospital.

"Also, before we actually went to high dose chemo, we were taken on a family break – a wee trip down to Newcastle where they have Daisy Lodge, a fantastic facility for the youngsters and their families. They have activities and loads of stuff, just to bring back a wee bit of normality and the siblings get to go as well."

To help brighten life for Alexandra during the tough months of treatment her family arranged for her to see her idols One Direction twice at Croke Park in Dublin. She also travelled to Wembley Stadium in London where she managed to meet the band through the Make a Wish Foundation.

Alexandra says: “They were just lovely young fellas and I was wearing Niall’s jacket which he had thrown into the crowd at a concert and which the girl who caught it sold and I bought. He recognised it and it was just amazing to meet them.”

Of her battle with cancer, she says: “It wasn’t easy but I think I just stayed strong for myself and kept myself up for my parents and my family.

"It’s been difficult but I’m glad to get back to school and see my friends."

Her mum adds: “What that poor child has been through and to come out the other end is just amazing. She has such spirit and One Direction really helped. She had a life-size cardboard cut-out of Niall in hospital with her all the time and it used to give the nurses quite a fright at night but I think it helped keep her going.

"Seeing them was very special for her, thanks to the Make a Wish Foundation. She was still in a wheelchair and had lost her hair and the band all gave her hugs and kisses which meant the world to her. Thankfully we have all come out the other end smiling.

"Andre’s back working part-time as a consultant and we are getting back some normality. We are just grateful for the miracle that has saved our wee girl."

Karen made a heartfelt plea to people to support the Cancer Fund for Children, emphasising how crucial the work they do is for families when their lives are turned upside down by a child cancer diagnosis.

Every week in Northern Ireland three new families are facing the same horror.

"At the beginning of treatment, everything stops," she says.

"Parents can’t work and the Cancer Fund for Children is always there financially as well to help out. They’ve been fantastic. We couldn’t do without them.

"We never thought we were going to be put in this position but you don’t know what’s around the corner.

"Literally five minutes can change your life and without those charities out there, we would be lost, and without people donating, those charities wouldn’t exist.

"We’ve met children affected by cancer from four weeks old. They need something to make life that wee bit normal for them.

"When they can’t go out and do the daily things that all normal teenagers or youngsters do, they need something to bring them that wee bit of normality when they’re going through the trauma of cancer."

Golden chance to show support
  • Every week in Northern Ireland three children, teenagers or young adults, aged up to 24, are diagnosed with cancer
  • The NI Cancer Fund for Children is the leading local cancer charity providing practical, financial and therapeutic support to children, young people and teenagers living with cancer and their families
  • The charity works with around 350 families at any one time
  • In 2012/2013 it delivered 198 specialist one-to-one sessions, 195 therapeutic short breaks and 28 residential weekends
  • Treatment generally lasts two to three years. It can be aggressive and in some cases can cause lifelong health issues
  • You can support Childhood Cancer Awareness Month by wearing a gold ribbon which can be purchased from Sainsbury’s Forestside branch, Ulster Bank, Progressive Building Society, A McLean Bookmakers and Mount Charles canteens. You can also show your support and donate £3 by texting DAISY to 70555
  • If you are affected by childhood cancer and need help or advise you can contact Cancer Fund for Children on, tel: 028 9080 5599

Here’s the talk I did today; available to watch via live stream now at the Tamaraind Institute's UNM portal. Just click on the above link to access the video presentation.  

So honored to be invited to speak to the UNM Fine Art Department through tamarind institute(Tumblr). Was super nervous and probably said things I shouldn’t have (and I apologize in advance for all of that). Overall, it seemed everyone in attendance enjoyed it, hope you do as well. 

Thanks for all the support, everyone. 


In the end, listening to 5 Seconds Of Summer on album just doesn’t do them the same justice as seeing them live. On record, they’re a little too polished, but live they’re gritty and dirty and just a whole lot of freaking fun. They let the performance take them away and they push their tempos and their volumes to the brink right up to that breaking point and it is a total treat to see live. 5SOS have proven themselves to be a seriously big deal, and everyone should give them a chance. If you don’t, you’ll be depriving yourself of one helluva time.
—  Emma Garland, ATP (x)

anonymous said:

Do you think the backstage photo from nashville was seeding for the coming out like some people are saying, or just they happened to be seen?

I think that if they weren’t meant to be seen, they wouldn’t have walked in front of a clearly visible crowd of fans with their arms around each other’s waists, and they definitely wouldn’t have continued walking like a couple once those fans started screaming. And, sorry to say, but I think people who take that as a fluke or as an accidental slip-up are incredibly naive to how these things really work.

From what I can see, they’ve been seeding it for much longer than just that photo in Nashville. People have pointed things out to me in the past few weeks, things that have happened over this year so far, and it goes way further back. Headlines linking their names, them disappearing together for days or weeks at a time, being seen together in small ways over the last several months. It’s kicked up recently, but it’s not new. That’s the point of seeding something — Once things kick up, people are already subconsciously expecting it, because you’ve been giving them small doses of it over time.

(Now, this is about to go a bit beyond the scope of your original question, so I’m putting it under a cut.)

Read More

From unrealitytv:

If we listened to all the One Direction detractors, we would totally buy the reports that Louis Tomlinson and Harry Styles are at loggerheads and sometimes it’s easy to believe, because the boys don’t interact much on stage.

Over the course of this most recent One Direction tour, we have been inundated with cute Niam moments, Narry dances, Ziam fun but very little Larry interactions….until this week that is.

We were delighted when one very kind fan shared this clip of the boys on stage in Chicago earlier this week. Have a watch of Harry dancing up to his old pal and tell us, does this look like a pair of men who hate each other?

It’s been reported that Louis and Zayn Malik are furious with Harry currently, because of his pious and holier than thou reaction to their Peru marijuana video, which was leaked in June of this year.

Some sources say the band aren’t travelling together much and that Zouis are refusing to spend time to Styles, others have claimed that the group are all staying in separate hotels because of the friction.

However, one watch of this clip and we don’t want to believe it at all. There’s still a BFF friendship there surely?

One Direction are heading home this week, at least most of them are, as they enjoy a ten day break in their tour schedule.

It’s been reported that Tommo is already back in England and will soon start preparing for his charity football match in Glasgow this week. Harry hasn’t been spotted since yesterday, though some sources have said that he has headed to his second home of LA, to hang out with a few of his famous mates before returning to the tour later in September.

Have a watch of Harry’s cute dance and Louis’ reaction and tell us what you think below…

And then the vine of this gif:

Just throwing it out there.

'Orange Is the New Black' star Laverne Cox to appear on 'Faking It'


Laverne Cox will guest star in an upcoming season-two episode of MTV’s Faking It,EW has learned exclusively.

The Emmy-nominated Orange Is the New Black star will play Margot, a Hester High alum and the director of the school’s elite drama club. Demanding, intense, and full of herself, Margot is a big fish in a small pond—in her mind, at least. While holding auditions for the drama club, Margot puts hopefuls through a ghastly series of exercises, all designed to strip them down to their cores.

Aside from the upcoming third season of OITNB, Cox will also guest-star on Bravo’s new series Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce.

Faking It returns Sept. 23 at 10:30 p.m. on MTV.


Arrogant scumbags?

Does this:








Remind anybody of this (from February):









So I’ve heard the opinion that the articles are fine because what was actually said (in both cases) was humble and charming and fine. I agree, to an extent. The articles are fine. The headlines, on the other hand, are awful.

I’ll give you some advice. Don’t read the comments, especially on the articles about Harry comparing One Direction to the Beatles. They are filled with rage, and people who believe in Harry’s public image (and apparently didn’t read the article). It’s ghastly. (And a reminder that One Direction is a JOKE to a lot of people. The rebranding is going to be difficult).

I do think that having headlines like this is harmful to the brand, because the headline is the only thing that non-fans are going to see. I don’t like it, and I don’t know if this is HJPR purposefully doing something harmful or just making a judgment call I don’t agree with.


Benedict Cumberbatch taking of his jacket ////D… please ignore the frame at the bottom.. my record program had some issues with stream.. *sigh*