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Beckham's call lifts spirits of ailing teen


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From KW Record


Beckham's call lifts spirits of ailing teen

English superstar shows 'a touch of class' by contacting Hamilton cancer victim


Tom Johnstone holds a jersey signed by David Beckham that the soccer star had sent for his daughter, Rebecca. Beckham also made a surprise phone call recently to the Hamilton teen, who is battling cancer.

HAMILTON (Jan 27, 2007)

The caller spoke in a soft voice, thick with an English accent. Brenda Johnstone thought it sounded familiar, though she couldn't quite place it.

"Can I speak to Rebecca Johnstone, please?'' he asked.

Brenda didn't think it was a good idea. These are rough days for her daughter. The kind you pray you -- and especially your children -- will never see.

Her beautiful 19-year-old has cancer.

Three years ago, a mole on her collarbone that doctors kept telling her was nothing turned out to be melanoma. By the time the truth was discovered, it had spread.

Heartbreak doesn't begin to describe the resulting anguish to those who love her. Particularly since doctors have told the family that, without some kind of miracle, time is now being measured in days rather than weeks or months.

So when the call came last Wednesday morning, Brenda wasn't about to disturb her sleeping child -- especially since it was the day after surgery to remove a cancerous tonsil that had made her girl even more uncomfortable.

No problem. The caller politely said he understood. He even offered to call back later at a better time. Then he dropped the bombshell.

"It's David Beckham,'' he said.

Long pause. "I just kind of went quiet for a second,'' Mom said. "Then I said, 'You've got to be kidding me."'

It was no joke.

As it happened, Rebecca's aunt knew her niece is a huge Beckham fan. Has posters on her walls. Reads everything she can about him. Follows the English star's career. Loves the way he plays. Even shares a moniker. When she plays, her teammates strap an M onto the end of her nickname -- Becca -- and make her sound just like her soccer idol.

So, searching for something she could do to lift some spirits, Aunt Jenny had done a little digging on the Internet and found one of the star's representatives. Then made arrangements for a call, though she was never convinced it would actually happen.

Yet here he was on the phone. The same voice Mom had just heard on TV as news of him signing with the Los Angeles Galaxy leaked out.

By now she was excitedly almost running through the family's Hamilton home. Her husband, Tom, nearly fell off the couch as he caught wind of what was happening. A former semi-pro player himself, he couldn't believe the call wasn't a hoax and started grilling her with questions even as they walked into Rebecca's silent room.

Their daughter was asleep. Gently rousing her, she said she didn't want to talk to anyone. Her surgery-ravaged throat was raspy and sore and she was in no mood for socializing.

'"How about David Beckham?''' Mom asked. "Her eyes kind of popped.''

And so she did. After three years of hell during which everything had seemed to go wrong and every attempt to make things better had only made things worse, the moment she put the phone to her ear, the dark clouds parted and a beacon of light flooded into her life.

In the most strained of voices, Becca and Becks talked about soccer. He asked how she was doing. Told her he'd heard she was a big fan. Even mentioned that he liked her nickname. He asked if there was anything he could do for her. When she said no, he asked if he could send her something. She didn't say no to that. Then he told her to get in touch if she needed anything.

Four minutes after saying hello, she wished him good luck this season and hung up.

But the story doesn't end with the dial tone. The buzz from the call gave the entire family a jolt of positive energy it hadn't had in months.

"The house was electrified for the whole day,'' Dad says.

Even now as he talks about it and repeatedly expresses his gratitude for Beckham's "touch of class'' that brought his daughter such a lift, he lights up. Until reality bites again.

Rebecca isn't well enough to talk about the call now. Once a promising sweeper who made the elite Hamilton Sparta soccer club at 12 despite having never played the game before -- and who was often the best player on her team after that -- she's struggling.

She has almost no voice and has been suffering through a few horrendous weeks. But just when she needed it most, Beckham intervened again.

On Monday, a parcel arrived from Madrid, where Beckham plays. Inside was one of his authentic Real Madrid game jerseys.

On the back, next to the number, he'd written: "To Rebecca, With Love, David Beckham, 23.''

Eventually it'll be framed and hung in her room. But not yet. She wants to be able to touch it still. To have a connection to the hero who made a difference in her life.

Dad's using it differently. As a motivation for her to continue fighting.

"I told her, 'You get better and we'll go see him in person so you can thank him."' She liked that idea.

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From KW Record


Teen loses fight with cancer

HAMILTON (Feb 1, 2007)

A telephone call from international soccer star David Beckham buoyed Rebecca Johnstone's spirits, but it wasn't enough to save her life.

Johnstone, a 19-year-old McMaster University student who had fought through a lengthy battle with melanoma, died this week, a short time after receiving a spirit-lifting phone call from Beckham, who offered her encouragement in her struggle with cancer.

"His (Beckham's) thoughts are with the family at this time," said Simon Oliveira, a spokesperson for the Real Madrid star.

Funeral services for Johnstone will be held tomorrow in Hamilton.

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