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'I won't let my arthritis define who I am' - pet rescue volunteer Linda

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Animal lover Linda Kelly has fostered cats and is raising money to support an animal rescue charity

Animal lover Linda Kelly has fostered cats and is raising money to support an animal rescue charity

Animal lover Linda Kelly has fostered cats and is raising money to support an animal rescue charity

Animal lover Linda Kelly from Crossakiel, Co Meath, is taking part in the Vhi Virtual Women's Mini Marathon - taking place from October 1 to 10 - to support an animal rescue charity.

Linda is an avid cat lover, and despite being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), volunteers with the Cat and Dog Protection Association of Ireland, helping animals in need.

Linda was diagnosed four years ago on her 30th birthday.

She had woken up one morning to get out of bed and collapsed with severe pain in the soles of her feet.

Her doctor referred her for physiotherapy while she waited for blood results.

She was diagnosed with RA, and experiences severe pain.

"I couldn't tie up my hair, dress myself, my heart sank and I felt like giving up," she said.

Effects

"This being an auto-immune disease, there are so many side effects - one of which is depression and even suicidal thoughts, fatigue, pain, inflammation, mood swings, hair loss, skin rash, weight gain."

At the time Linda was running her own eyelash extension and beauty salon.

"The pain in my feet eased but seemed to spread to my wrists and fingers, I would suffer from swollen joints one day and feel ok but incredibly tired and had feelings of depression and anxiety the next.

"I didn't have time to be sick and being self-employed I needed to continue working 50-plus hours a week.

"I threw steroids (that were prescribed to me) at the problem for a few weeks until I realised this was just masking the problem.

"I then had to make the difficult choice of closing my salon, which was doing pretty well, and find another less strenuous job.

"I have now taken my business in a different direction selling cosmetics in my online shop www.newlookfx.com and I'm branching out into lash supply as well as promotions as a salesperson for other companies at exhibitions or events.

"I won't let this illness define me, I don't want it to ruin my life so I've been trying to think outside the box and utilise my free time.

"To regain some confidence I've been exercising at Dance Mania in Kells as they have trampoline classes which don't put pressure on my joints."

One day she noticed a Facebook post from the Cat and Dog Protection Association of Ireland about a tiny black kitten stuck in thorny bushes in Ballymun.

"They were looking for a foster home for the kitten, and I offered," Linda said.

"After meeting with Laura Mulligan from the charity, who brought the kitten to my home, she explained how they need more funds, they don't have a shelter, and they rely on donations and volunteers to help them raise running costs of over €8,000 every month.

Rescue

"I wanted to support their fine work so I now volunteer doing their social media posts and help with fundraising.

"The CDPA also offers financial aid to anyone with a pet in need of veterinary care that they cannot themselves afford.

"They do TNR, rescue and rehoming. You can also help by fostering cats or dogs, adopting or setting up a direct debit from Paypal of as little as €6 per month."

The little kitten that Linda fostered is now named Vader, and is a part of her family.

"He is our forever kitten," she says. "He loves to play and cuddle up with our other two rescue cats Scampi and Hobbes."

Check out the fantastic work of the Cat & Dog Protection Association of Ireland at www.cdpa.ie.