Living with Glaucoma: Tonian McDonald’s Personal Story

Photo of glaucoma patient and advocate Tonian McDonald

In 2016 while completing my law degree in Jamaica, I had a unique and strange headache. The pain was on and off, but the headache seemed to center around my eyes. As a busy student, I chose to ignore it.

One week later, I visited my ophthalmologist, Carmen Wilson, MD for a regular eye exam. After several tests, she said “You have glaucoma.”

I was only 22. While my diagnosis was a complete shock to me, it was not surprising to my family as my grandfather also has glaucoma. I was incredibly upset and afraid that my entire life was going to change. I didn’t know anything about glaucoma, what it is or what causes it. I had so many questions about my future:

Can I finish my law degree? Will I have a legal career? What is going to happen now? Will I go blind?

It was not easy at first.

My treatment began immediately with eye drops, and with proper diet and exercise, my eye pressure has stabilized. In addition, I am grateful to have not lost any peripheral vision. In some ways, I am also thankful for glaucoma, as the disease has actually given me a purpose.

I have completed my bachelor’s degree in law, received a scholarship to complete my Master of Business Administration in London, and wrote a book about glaucoma and healthy eating.

Today, and every day I am living with glaucoma, a life filled with joy, happiness and love, I can do anything I want; my reason for living but not just living, SEEING became more significant than my prognosis.

Although Jamaica does not have much support for glaucoma, I strive to be a face for change and spread awareness of glaucoma in my country and around the world.

Everyone is at risk for glaucoma; some have glaucoma at a young age, while others are diagnosed later in life. Some, sadly, will never know until it is too late.

Sight is critical and my glaucoma diagnosis was my wake-up call.


Posted on March 16, 2018; Reviewed on March 18, 2022