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Dungannon sisters behind My Sister's Closet come up with novel idea to bag tens of thousands of pounds for a cancer charity

Anita, who runs boutique My Sister's Closet with sister Donna, has already raised £40,000 in just over 48 hours through a raffle for an exclusive Chanel handbag

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Tough times: Anita Ross counts the days of her chemotherapy journey

Tough times: Anita Ross counts the days of her chemotherapy journey

Tough times: Anita Ross counts the days of her chemotherapy journey

Tough times: Anita Ross counts the days of her chemotherapy journey

Tough times: Anita Ross counts the days of her chemotherapy journey

Tough times: Anita Ross counts the days of her chemotherapy journey

Tough times: Anita Ross counts the days of her chemotherapy journey

Tough times: Anita Ross counts the days of her chemotherapy journey

Tough times: Anita Ross counts the days of her chemotherapy journey

Tough times: Anita Ross counts the days of her chemotherapy journey

Tough times: Anita Ross counts the days of her chemotherapy journey

Tough times: Anita Ross counts the days of her chemotherapy journey

Sister act: Anita with her sibling Donna at a recent fashion event they hosted in Belfast

Sister act: Anita with her sibling Donna at a recent fashion event they hosted in Belfast

To be in with the chance of winning the designer Chanel Trendy CC bag and a £100 gift voucher for MSC the Store, go to 'My Sister's Closet Blog' on Instagram and Facebook for all the information

To be in with the chance of winning the designer Chanel Trendy CC bag and a £100 gift voucher for MSC the Store, go to 'My Sister's Closet Blog' on Instagram and Facebook for all the information

Tough times: Anita Ross counts the days of her chemotherapy journey

It is only a few months since Anita Ross's world came crashing down after a cancer diagnosis and already she is giving something back. Together with her sister Donna Ross, the girls - who run popular local fashion boutique My Sister's Closet - have raised over £40,000 in just 48 hours for the local charity Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI through an online raffle that has gone viral.

The Dungannon sisters, who are known for their style, have bought a luxury Chanel handbag worth almost £5,000 which is up for grabs for the charity.

That Anita is thinking of others while still in the early stages of recovery from 12 rounds of gruelling chemotherapy treatment will not surprise her many thousands of followers on social media.

Throughout the trauma of the past six months, the 36-year-old who was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma last September, has been inspiring others through her popular My Sisters Closet blog on Instagram and Facebook.

In what has been a very personal and honest account of a traumatic time, Anita has been heartened by the many messages she has received from people about how her blog has helped them.

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Tough times: Anita Ross counts the days of her chemotherapy journey

Tough times: Anita Ross counts the days of her chemotherapy journey

Tough times: Anita Ross counts the days of her chemotherapy journey

It was through reading accounts of other patients going through lymphoma on Instagram which helped Anita to cope after the shock of her diagnosis.

She says: "I had never heard of lymphoma and I had no idea what the symptoms were. When you are first told you have it, it is extremely tough and you experience a whole myriad of emotions. I went online and found people on Instagram who were starting their journeys, others who were in the middle of it and some who had ended theirs. I was able to see the whole journey and people made videos and talked about things like hair loss and it really helped me.

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Tough times: Anita Ross counts the days of her chemotherapy journey

Tough times: Anita Ross counts the days of her chemotherapy journey

Tough times: Anita Ross counts the days of her chemotherapy journey

"I had lived my life through blogging for the past six years.

"I knew my whole appearance was going to change and I was starting a massive chapter in my life so I decided to repay the debt of those people who helped me on Instagram by talking about my experience through my blog.

"To me if it made things easier for one person down the road, then it would be worthwhile."

Anita, who is originally from Donaghmore, is married to press photographer Matthew Mackey (34) and now lives in Belfast.

She and her sister Donna were about to extend their boutique in Victoria Square and open a new pop up shop in Dublin last summer when Anita took ill.

Her symptoms presented as swollen glands in her neck and then she developed a very itchy rash.

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Tough times: Anita Ross counts the days of her chemotherapy journey

Tough times: Anita Ross counts the days of her chemotherapy journey

Tough times: Anita Ross counts the days of her chemotherapy journey

She recalls: "It was around June when I found lumps in my neck and that same day I went to my GP who told me it was a normal way for my body to fight infection. He wasn't concerned but told me to come back if it didn't go away or I had any pain.

"It didn't feel right to me and then I got this serious itch when I had a bath. My legs would flare up and it got to the point when I could have ripped my skin off it was so itchy. I also started to get pins and needles in my left arm."

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Tough times: Anita Ross counts the days of her chemotherapy journey

Tough times: Anita Ross counts the days of her chemotherapy journey

Tough times: Anita Ross counts the days of her chemotherapy journey

Three weeks after her first GP visit, she returned to the surgery and another doctor red flagged her to see an ENT consultant. Within a matter of days she had an appointment with an ENT consultant who immediately told her she could have lymphoma. She says: "My mum had come to the hospital with me but I went in to see the consultant on my own because I wasn't expecting it to be anything too serious.

"When he told me I didn't cry, I was just shocked. A week later I was brought in to have one of the lumps removed from my neck for a biopsy and as I have always been petrified of needles, I was very apprehensive."

Anita then faced an agonising two week wait for the results when her worst fears were confirmed and she was told she had Hodgkin Lymphoma.

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Tough times: Anita Ross counts the days of her chemotherapy journey

Tough times: Anita Ross counts the days of her chemotherapy journey

Tough times: Anita Ross counts the days of her chemotherapy journey

Ten years earlier she watched her best friend die from leukaemia at the age of 24 and memories of that terrible time came flooding back as she was given her own diagnosis.

She says: "My first thought was of my best friend. I lived with her and saw her go through treatment and a bone marrow transplant before she passed away.

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Sister act: Anita with her sibling Donna at a recent fashion event they hosted in Belfast

Sister act: Anita with her sibling Donna at a recent fashion event they hosted in Belfast

Sister act: Anita with her sibling Donna at a recent fashion event they hosted in Belfast

"The doctors said that what I had was nothing like leukaemia. They said that lymphoma was curable if caught early like mine and that if you had to choose a cancer it would be the one to choose.

"My second question was if I was going to lose my hair and I was told I would be completely bald after my second round of chemo. I went home to mum and dad's house and lay down on the bed and just cried."

Treatment started straight away and Anita was grateful that while her long, thick hair did start to fall out, she didn't lose it all.

She bravely posted a picture of herself on her blog showing the shortened, much finer hair she was left with after chemo. As a newlywed, she was also advised to undergo IVF to freeze embryos, a process which, because of her needle phobia, proved particularly tough for her.

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To be in with the chance of winning the designer Chanel Trendy CC bag and a £100 gift voucher for MSC the Store, go to 'My Sister's Closet Blog' on Instagram and Facebook for all the information

To be in with the chance of winning the designer Chanel Trendy CC bag and a £100 gift voucher for MSC the Store, go to 'My Sister's Closet Blog' on Instagram and Facebook for all the information

To be in with the chance of winning the designer Chanel Trendy CC bag and a £100 gift voucher for MSC the Store, go to 'My Sister's Closet Blog' on Instagram and Facebook for all the information

In total, Anita had 12 chemo sessions, the last one on March 13, just before the UK lockdown was announced.

With a weakened immune system due to treatment, she was advised to go home and isolate immediately.

Since lockdown, her blog which also features some home fashion tips and cocktail making, has continued to inspire and even save lives.

She explains: "I had one girl get in touch to say she had swollen glands in her neck, but because of Covid-19 and the pressure facing the health service she felt she couldn't go to her GP. She asked my advice and I told her it would be better to get it checked out than worry about it.

"She did go to her doctor and has been referred for a biopsy. She told me she was going to put it off until this is all over and I am so glad she didn't.

"As horrible as it was to go through the cancer, if it does some good and raises awareness of lymphoma then I will be grateful.

"Everyone knows the symptoms of breast cancer and bowel cancer, but I never knew the symptoms of lymphoma and I just want to raise awareness as early detection saves lives."

A trip to Paris with 18 friends on April 3 to celebrate the end of her treatment was cancelled and Anita has been confined to home for the foreseeable future.

However, she is feeling grateful to be cancer free, fully aware people are facing tough times because of the virus.

It is why she wanted to give something back and together with her sister Donna bought the exquisite Chanel handbag to raffle online to raise funds for Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI.

She adds: "I feel very lucky to be cancer free and I wanted to do something to say thank you.

"I had never experienced NHS care before because I had never been sick and I couldn't say enough about how quickly and efficiently they treated me, they were amazing.

"Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI do research which helps find treatments and cures for people all over the world, not just here in Northern Ireland.

"Because of the current situation their fundraising events have been cancelled and all the money they normally get in donations has stopped, so my sister and I hope to be able to make up some of that through the raffle.

"We also wanted to thank our loyal followers for the support we have both received over the last six months and give something back. "

The girls posted pictures on their social media accounts of a number of luxury handbags inviting followers to vote for their favourites.

A Chanel Trendy CC handbag won the vote and the sisters then had trouble getting their hands on one as it was sold out in London and Paris and in Ireland.

They finally tracked one down in New York with a price tag of $6,000 and had it shipped over.

Now for a minimum donation of £5 you can enter a draw to win this stunning designer bag.

Anita says:"We wanted something that is not readily available, a once in a lifetime purchase, a bit of luxury and a dream bag.

"Donna and I bought it using our own money. At the beginning of my journey, I set up a JustGiving page which has raised over £12k since September.

"We launched the competition on Sunday at 3pm and we've been blown away with the response.

"In the first 12 hours, over £20,000 in donations was made which is just amazing and 24 hours later that had reached £40,000. We are hoping to raise as much money as we can for this fantastic local charity."

Win a designer handbag and £100 gift voucher

To be in with the chance of winning the designer Chanel Trendy CC bag and a £100 gift voucher for MSC the Store, go to 'My Sister's Closet Blog' on Instagram and Facebook for all the information.

A winner from each platform will be announced next month and a toss of a coin posted live on social media will decide which one walks away with the luxury new bag.

Belfast Telegraph