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Wicklow woman determined to heal as family seek alternative treatment for inoperable cancer

A music festival-themed raffle has been launched in order to raise funds to pay for treatment that may save her life


Wendy says her niece has shown great strength since she was diagnosed.

Wendy says her niece has shown great strength since she was diagnosed.

Aoife prior to her diagnosis.

Aoife prior to her diagnosis.

Aoife was admitted to hospital for emergency surgery last week.

Aoife was admitted to hospital for emergency surgery last week.


Wendy says her niece has shown great strength since she was diagnosed.


Prior to her diagnosis Aoife Tobin was like any other 28-year-old, she had a job she loved, had big plans for the future, and according, to her auntie, was “full of life and rearing to go”.

A lingering cough in May of last year gave no indication of the life-altering diagnosis she was about to receive. But when that cough refused to go away doctors decided to run some additional tests, just as a precaution. 

And in July of last year Aoife was diagnosed with stage two lung cancer, a 3.5 cm tumour located in her lung.

From Bray originally, Aoife now lives in Co Laois and it was from there her aunt, Wendy Riordan, explained the journey her niece has taken since that initial diagnosis. 

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“It came as a huge shock to us all when she received the news,” says Wendy. “She was working as a bar manager at the Abbeyleix Golf Club, she loved it, she’d be that kind of person, very friendly, she knew all the locals and got on with everyone. When she got sick in May of last year she went to the doctor numerous times and had been on antibiotics. But no-one was even thinking about cancer at this point.

“She had X-rays but even then it took a while for her to be diagnosed, and then she had all the scopes and biopsies to confirm it.

“Initially she was told it was stage two lung cancer and that it was operable, and we were feeling quite positive about it, there was a sense of ‘we can do this’.”

That initial sense of positivity continued through Aoife’s first round of treatment and by the end of 2022 there was almost a sense that she had endured the worst the illness could throw at her. 

“They did further tests and found it had gone into her lymph glands so she did the chemotherapy and radiation,” explains Wendy. “She had a rough time on the chemo but once that was finished in November she was feeling great, beginning to feel almost cured.”

A routine check-up shortly before Christmas changed everything. 

“She went in for another scan before Christmas and was told the cancer in her lungs had shrunk but that it had metastasized into her spine and there wasn’t much more they (the doctors) could do.

“She started on a course of immunotherapy shortly after and was quite sick from that, and then, just last week, she had emergency surgery on a fracture in her spine and had pins inserted. We’re not sure how it happened, it could have been a result of the treatment she’s receiving or the cancer itself. Unfortunately, none of the therapies have been successful so far, and the cancer is still spreading. It’s possible that no further medical treatment is available due to the proximity of the tumour to the spinal cord.”

Despite everything, despite being dealt the most severe of blows time and time again, Aoife has remained positive, remained strong where others would falter.

“It’s been horrific for her, she’s been as strong as someone could be given all she’s faced but she’s in a lot of pain after her most recent surgery, is a bit all over the place; it’s been stressful for her but she’s remaining positive despite being handed that kind of sentence at her age,” Wendy says.

“Her mam Pauline died from an aneurysm when Aoife was quite young so she’s had to deal with a lot in her young life.

“We’re not giving up though, we will do everything we can for her, but, like anyone with cancer, Aoife gets impatient with herself. I tell her she’s not fighting the illness, you’re healing, the wording is important; suggesting she’s fighting is to suggest it’s a battle, so we prefer to say she’s healing, she’s giving herself time to heal.”

While Aoife gives herself time to heal, Wendy and the rest of the family have begun searching for ways to extend that time, began exploring alternate treatments not available on the HSE.

In order to avail of those treatments however, they must raise a significant sum of money, with potential travel costs on top of any hospital bills. And rather than set-up a standard fundraiser, Wendy has created what she calls The Ultimate Festival Ticket Raffle, a fundraising event in which participants are entered into a chance to win an amazing festival experience at some of Ireland’s best festivals in 2023.

As the owner of glamping company Pitched Perfect, Wendy has built up a considerable number of contacts in the music industry and many of those contacts have volunteered their support free of charge.

There are currently 28 prizes on offer, with each consisting of a two-person glamping package supplied by Pitched Perfect plus two weekend festival tickets. The festivals who have donated tickets are Forever Young. Body & Soul. Forest Fest. Wild Roots. Rory Gallagher Festival. Indie Festival.

Tickets for the raffle are €25 each or three for €60 with each prize worth, on average, €1,000. The closing date for entries is May 14 after which 28 winners will be chosen at random.

“Despite being in a lot of pain, Aoife, as always is remaining strong and positive and is looking forward to getting home to recover and heal overview,” Wendy says.

“All proceeds from this raffle will go towards helping her heal from her cancer by sourcing alternative and complimentary cancer treatments in the absence of being able to receive any further immunotherapy, chemotherapy or radiotherapy.”

The artwork for the raffle was done by Bray company Bad Apple Creative and the video by Fiona Madden. ​To support Aoife’s treatment campaign visit idonate.ie/raffle/Aoifesraffle