WHEN Belleek woman Eloise Mullin was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma at the age of 26, life as she knew it then was effectively put on hold.
Undergoing 12 intense rounds of chemotherapy as part of her treatment, the teacher in Belfast had to uproot all the plans she had made for herself and move back to Fermanagh with her parents.
Now, thankfully in remission, she has a lot of catching up to do. 
But she is already off to a good start, having taken on the last stretch of the Camino de Santiago on her own last summer.
And having returned to work, she has also discovered a new extension to her chosen career path -- one she never would have considered before her cancer diagnosis.
With the world at her feet once more, Eloise is living proof that remission from cancer is possible.
As a result, she has become one of the faces of local charity Leukaemia and Lymphoma NI’s new blood cancer awareness campaign, Empty Chairs. 
Leukaemia and Lymphoma NI is the only local charity entirely dedicated to researching treatments and a cure for blood cancers. 
“Three out of four people survive blood cancer,” says Eloise. 
“That is a really positive message to get out.
“But I don’t think I had even heard of lymphoma before I was diagnosed with it.
“I was pretty green when I first started off on my journey. But when it was broken down for me and I was told that it is a ‘more manageable’ cancer with good success rates, I clung onto that.”
Eloise remembers breaking the news of her diagnosis to her family without actually knowing what it really meant.
“It was my brother who told me that Delta Goodrem [Australian singer-songwriter] and the star of the TV series Dexter [Michael C. Hall] had both had it,” Eloise explains, “Once I knew there were survivors, I was able to be more positive about it.”
She describes herself as being “blessed” to have been able to receive her chemotherapy treatment at home in Belleek.
“It made everything slightly better, but it was still tough,” she recalls, “The last six out of the 12 treatments were very tough. I slept a lot of the time and to be honest, a lot of that time is a blur to me. It was just about survival.
“There were times I make plans like: ‘Tomorrow I’ll go to the end of the lane for a walk’. But they were all just ideas. When it came down to it, I hadn’t the energy to get past the front door. Even in my recovery, the energy levels were very low, I was very fatigued, so I took it very slowly.”
Two-and-a-half years after her diagnosis, Eloise returned to teach part-time in September 2014.
“I would work the Monday, sleep the Tuesday, work the Wednesday, sleep the Thursday and that was how it was for a while,” says Eloise, “My school was amazing, very patient.
“I’m a home economics teacher, so it can be quite a physical role. So instead of returning to it entirely, I started some work at the special needs unit as well.
“Now my teaching time table isn’t entirely home economics, I am still involved in the special needs unit and I love it -- I never thought that would be part of my career path but I am so happy that it is. I think that is part of the recovery process too -- realising that you cannot expect to be able to go straight back to the way things were before.
“You have to learn to accept that your life won’t be the same. And when you accept that, it is better.”
I love that part of my job
Eloise says taking on the last stretch of the Camino was “the best thing I have ever done”.
“It was such a liberating experience. I met some amazing people and made some real friends for life.
“I felt very strong mentally. Physically I was tired, but I never put myself under pressure, I felt very relaxed.
“My life will never be the same again but it is actually for the better.
“It really made me realise what is important in life. I’m not worrying about things that don’t matter any more.”
For more information on the work of Leukaemia and Lymphoma NI, visit the website: www.leukaemiaandlymphomani.org, or to donate, visit www.justgiving.com/nilrf.