One week Wicklow man John McGrath was playing good football. The next, he felt unusually tired after a match, and the week after that he struggled to stay in the game.
The following week fatigue forced him to leave the pitch mid-play. Days later he discovered he had leukaemia.
It was February 2011 and the Baltinglass native, now 26, was studying construction management in DIT and playing football with the Wicklow senior team.
But then a feeling of dragging tiredness kicked in.
"The National League was on and I played the first game against Carlow. I felt tired and a bit drained after it.
"The following week I played against Leitrim and I was tired during that game, which was very unusual.
"The next week I played against London and I came off the pitch during the game. I was struggling to run and I'd no energy."
John had initially put his problem down to a troublesome wisdom tooth, but a visit to the GP set alarm bells ringing.
"The doctor took blood samples. Initially they thought it might be glandular fever. I was told it would be about a week before the results were ready."
But later that day, February 22, the doctor rang. The results had come back. John was sent straight to St James's Hospital.
He rang his parents Rosaleen and Paddy and told them the news. His girlfriend Carol drove him to hospital where he was quickly admitted to the leukaemia ward, Burkitt's Ward.
"I was very nervous," he says now. And with good reason – following more tests the next day, it was confirmed that he had Burkitt's lymphoma.
"The doctors explained that I'd need four cycles of chemotherapy, each lasting about a month. Between each cycle there would be a week at home."
No time was wasted – two days later John started the first cycle of treatment.
A three-pronged tube pumped medication into his heart.
"The treatment drained me – it takes everything from you and leaves you physically sick. The first few days, it really affected me – I was getting sick after treatment and after eating.
"One of the drugs basically removed the lining of my throat, mouth and stomach and for about 10 days I was eating only yoghurt and drinking cold drinks."
His weight dropped from 12 stone to about 10-and-a-half. Towards the end of the cycle, his hair started to fall out.
"I was worried that it would come back a different colour, but it came back the usual dark brown!"
Instead of a week between treatments, John only had a weekend off before he started the second round.
"That suited me. They said they'd bring me back in on the Monday to start the second course, and as far as I was concerned, the earlier the better."
Although he had an aggressive form of the cancer, blood tests after the first treatment round showed that there was no trace of the leukaemia in his system.
"They wanted to make sure I was clear so they proceeded with the other three cycles after a couple of days' break."
Throughout the ordeal, he says, family and friends were incredibly supportive, somehow managing to conceal the terror and distress they were experiencing.
"I couldn't speak highly enough of my family – there were sleepless nights for everyone but in front of me there were smiles, and laughter and loads of positive encouragement. That kept me boosted.
"Doctors always say one of the most important things for cancer patients is a positive mind-set – if you're in a negative mind-set you're more run down, which means the immune system is lower and your recovery is slower."
But there were some low points, notably a radio item he heard while lying in his hospital bed.
"I was listening to the Ray D'Arcy show in hospital and a woman came on, talking about her son's death from leukaemia and his condition sounded very like what I had.
"I was very affected by her story, but I was reassured by everyone that although the treatment may not have worked for that boy, it was working for me. It was a bad day, that was my lowest point."
McGrath was eventually discharged on May 24, about a month earlier than anticipated.
Although his college expected him to defer his studies for a year, John came to the authorities with a very different plan. "I missed my exams in May but I decided to do them in September along with people who were repeating."
He certainly wasted no time after leaving hospital – he met with the college authorities and within weeks was back in the gym.
For much of the summer he immersed himself in a demanding study routine whilst training on his own, slowly building up his fitness before re-joining his team in the last week of July.
"I hadn't wanted to go back to formal training too early in case I wasn't ready, but it was a great relief to get back into the routine of training with the lads!" he recalls. "That first day back really brought a smile to my face."
Suddenly, life was back to normal.
September brought the exams – he passed, needless to say – and entered the third year of the four-year course, which he finished on schedule in May of this year.
In 2012, McGrath managed the college junior football team to an all-Ireland junior championship win and also helped organise a charity event to raise money for St Burkitt's ward.
Now looking for a job, he is scheduled to captain the St James's football team in a major fundraiser next year – the match, which will be played by those who have been effected by cancer, will be held in aid of St Luke's and St James's hospitals in May 2014 in O'Moore Park, Co Laois.
For more information visit www. facebook.com/chairtygaamatch. Anyone wishing to join a team can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donations can be made to the following bank account details: Account number: 28277757/ Sort Code: 901490 BIC/SWIFT: BOFIIE2D