Meet Sharon Kanhai

Photo of Sharon Kanhai

Age: 32
Diagnosed with diabetes: September 1991
Diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy: April 2005

Sharon's story

When Sharon Kanhai was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at the age of 11, it didn’t prevent her from experiencing all of the major milestones of a young adulthood – high school, prom, college and finding her first job. But it wouldn’t be until years later that diabetes changed her life dramatically.

Throughout her teens and early 20s, Sharon did her best to monitor her diabetes. She was aware of the complications of the disease, but didn’t believe it would affect her during the prime of her youth.

“I was aware that vision loss was a possible complication of my diabetes, but I thought if I was going to lose my vision, it wouldn’t happen until I was in my 60s,” says Sharon.

It all started one day in 2005, when Sharon was just 25 years old. She had just come home from a long day at work and decided to jump onto the computer to catch up on her emails.

“All of a sudden I saw a flash of light and I felt like someone had stuck a big round black sticker in the middle of my right eye.”

Believing it was just a floater that would go away after some rest, Sharon went to bed – but awoke the next morning to find it was still there.

During a visit to her eye doctor she learned the truth: that she had diabetic retinopathy as a result of her juvenile diabetes.

“I asked the doctor if I was going to go blind. He said ‘no’ but that I would need surgery,” she says.

After three months and three unsuccessful laser surgeries, Sharon had little vision left. She was told that her retinas were detached and nothing more could be done.

“I was devastated. I remember thinking, ‘What am I going to do now? How am I going to work and live?’ Imagine being 25, feeling like you are in the prime of your life, and then losing all of your vision. It was like I had hit a brick wall.”

Luckily, Sharon was referred to CNIB – and all of her questions were answered.

At CNIB, Sharon learned the skills she needed to live independently with vision loss. She learned braille, how to cook and to take care of herself, and how to use a white cane to get around safely on her own. 

Her experience at CNIB inspired her to enroll at George Brown College as a full-time student. After graduating in 2011 as a social service worker, Sharon now volunteers at CNIB and mentors other people who are adjusting to their own vision loss.

“After many months of uncertainty, I am now confident that I have a bright future for myself.” ​​​​