A young Meath football champion who is battling a rare form of cancer has asked people to be kind, saying because no-one ever knows what others are going through.
Aoife Hughes (16) is just home from six weeks of specialised chemotherapy treatment in Germany for a rare form of Ewing sarcoma, which was diagnosed as she was worrying about her maths and science Junior Certificate exams last year.
The teenager sought medical advice after her hip swelled up. It was initially thought she was suffering with an injury picked up playing for the U16 Leinster champions, Meath.
Aoife - who is undergoing constant treatment and facing a gruelling operation in Birmingham to remove a shrinking tumour - is appealing for people to be kind to each other.
Her bravery earned her a Garda Youth award last year.
"Tears fill my eyes thinking about the day I was diagnosed," she said.
"It just broke me. I cried for three days solid - knowing that cancer could kill me put me in a dark place and I thought I could never be happy again.
"Not only [due to] the fact I had cancer and that I'd lose all my hair, but knowing that I'd look different from everyone else made me extremely upset.
"I thought I wouldn't be able to leave the house, that everyone would stare and that I'd stand out."
Aoife also had to face the fact that she had to give up playing football for Ashbourne/Donaghmore and Meath. But then she realised she had hope.
She still follows the team and goes to any matches or training sessions that she can.
"I had to give up sport, which made everything a whole lot worse. I played for Meath at the time and we had just won our Leinster title.
"However, then I realised that this treatment was going to save my life and instead of crying about it, I should be grateful because life is so precious and can be taken away at any moment.
"The amount of love and support I got from everyone gave me the confidence and happiness that I needed.
"At that time, I was in a dark place and that was tough for me and my family - but I promised that I'd never allow myself to get that upset again.
"This cancer has taught me that everybody has a chance to do and be whatever they want to be. Say hello to someone you don't know because a friendly smile can mean so much.
"Ask friends if they are OK because you never know what's going on in someone's life, so always be kind.
"Although having cancer is tough, it doesn't mean life's over. It's just on pause. And hopefully, I'll be back playing in the Meath camp again."