Meet Cathy Macdonald

Photo of Cathy Macdonald

Age: 42
Diagnosed with diabetes: April 1974
Diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy: Winter 1996

Cathy's story

Cathy MacDonald barely remembers that first Easter after being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at just four years old.

“I have a few memories of being in the hospital,” says Cathy, who currently lives with her husband and their daughter in Sackville, Nova Scotia.

She does, however, remember her mother’s trembling hands giving the daily injections of insulin – a routine she would adhere to for the rest of her life.

By the time Cathy reached her mid-twenties, tiny blood vessels were forming on the back of her eyes, and she needed laser treatments to control their growth. Eventually the retinas began to pull away, and she developed diabetic retinopathy.

“I was aware of diabetes complications, but it seemed so distant because I didn’t know anyone who had experienced serious complications,” says Cathy. “If you cheat on your diet, you also don’t see the consequences immediately. You cheat more and more, and eventually it becomes a habit.”

Operations to correct the condition were unsuccessful, and by the age of 27, Cathy was totally blind. Luckily, she was introduced to CNIB shortly after losing her sight.

“I got through rehabilitation fairly quickly,” she says.

With the skills she learned from CNIB, Cathy earned a diploma in human services and went on to work with people with disabilities. Cathy was also an active volunteer with CNIB where she helped others adjust to the challenges of vision loss.