Young woman determined to raise awareness after glaucoma diagnosis

Observer writer

Sunday, July 29, 2018

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TONIAN McDonald never imagined that, at 22 years old, she would've been diagnosed with a life-changing disease.

Two years later she has transformed the initial shock she experienced after being diagnosed with glaucoma into a renewed mindset of determination. The young woman is now on a mission to raise awareness about the condition.

McDonald was diagnosed in 2016 after noticing frequent headaches, which she presumed was caused by spending hours in front of the computer at work. Curious, she decided to get a full body examination to find out whether she had any health issues, beginning with her eyes.

“I stopped at an entity and decided to get my eyes checked. They tested me for glasses and they did a further test to check the health of my eyes. After they checked the health of my eyes, the doctor immediately said, 'I am seeing something at the back of your eyes as it relates to where your optic nerve is concerned'. He allowed me to do another test. By the time those results got back, it was already glaucoma,” McDonald told the Jamaica Observer.

The law student went on to describe her initial reaction to the diagnosis.

“I was shocked, you know. I was depressed. For the first six months it was hard. I'm like, I am here trying to finish my law degree… I am now trying to sort out my entire life [and] I am now going to be diagnosed with a life disease that has no cure.

“It was difficult and it's a shocker for someone at 22, heading to 23, and it required a lifestyle and a mindset change,” she recounted.

Glaucoma causes fluid pressure to build up inside the eye (intra-ocular pressure), damaging the optic nerve. It is one of the leading causes of blindness worldwide, and was reported as affecting 57.5 million people last year. In fact, that number is expected to increase to 65.5 million by 2020.

According to Mayo Clinic, the most common form of glaucoma has no warning signs.

“The effect is so gradual that you may not notice a change in vision until the condition is at an advanced stage,” Mayo Clinic said.

It said, too, that vision loss due to glaucoma can't be recovered.

“So it's important to have regular eye exams that include measurements of your eye pressure. If glaucoma is recognised early, vision loss can be slowed or prevented. If you have the condition, you'll generally need treatment for the rest of your life,” Mayo Clinic said.

If left untreated, glaucoma will eventually cause blindness.

McDonald, however, is not worried about vision loss.

Besides taking the conventional eye drop treatment, she said she is also keen on maintaining a healthy diet and a positive mindset to help fight the disease.

Though her condition is only in the beginning stages, McDonald is confident that her lifestyle and mindset change will prevent it from advancing.

“My intention is [for it] not to be advanced. Once it is advanced, this is where you start losing your vision, and I've not lost any of my [peripheral] vision,” she said.

“I believe in the food that I eat. I believe in mindset change. I believe the mind is powerful; and once you're able to get your mind under control as to where your health is concerned, you're able to beat glaucoma and beat just about anything.

“I've seen people beat cancer four or five times, and I have glaucoma. I think I am able to do that just the same by just eating and having the right mindset,“ she said.

As it relates to her making different food choices, McDonald said she only eats raw or natural foods, and in her own words, food that comes ”straight from the ground to the plate”.

As a self-proclaimed former fast food junkie, she has transitioned to a point where there is complete exclusion of processed and fast food from her diet.

And despite the diagnosis at such a young age and having to drastically change her lifestyle, McDonald said her life has “changed for the better”.

On her quest to raise awareness about glaucoma, she has also written a book about the condition.

“My greatest fear actually became one of my biggest blessings, so far. I was given the opportunity to write a book that I never thought about writing any time in my lifetime. I am spreading awareness to a cause. I am identifying my purpose and able to give speeches to individuals and just encourage them, because it's not just glaucoma. You see, everything in life is interconnected, and it is the same thing with the body. If you're able to fight one condition, you are able to fight anything,“ the glaucoma patient said.

McDonald has since completed her law degree and has been accepted to a master's degree programme oversees to continue her legal studies.

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