I’m not sure if it’s when the doctor gave me my x-Ray or the blood test results with several diagnoses, but somehow I’ve slid into a fog of depression overnight. More like I’ve been numb for at least a year. They gave me papers that said premenopause, fibromyalgia, arthritis in my knees and throughout my body, my A1C levels were elevated and I’d need to come back for fasting blood work to recheck those levels.
As you know, three years ago my husband and I decided to sell everything and become truck drivers. Hair, nail, dentist and doctor appointments, became driving overnight to drop off a hot load 1200 miles away. Even as small trucking business owners time off became a luxury. Those important appointments started to fall by the wayside.
In 2016, we were at the height of our team driving adventures. We working with a lease company that made sure even though we were an “independent contractors” we rarely had a chance to get time off at home. We ran 24/7 with the occasional glimmer we’d somehow make more money if we pushed harder and skipped those days off. Boy were we dumb.
We were in Topeka, Kansas on the turnpike when I decided to pull over and grab a quick breakfast at the Golden Arches. Within a few bites, I knew something was wrong with my breakfast burrito. By the time we made it to Wyoming, it was literally coming out of me faster than I could stop. After the company we were working with threw a fit, it took them 4 days to get us back home so I could see a doctor. I ended up in the hospital for dehydration and food poisoning. That sickness lasted 6 more months.
I’ve always been healthy. Even as a kid I rarely went to the doctor. I was lucky. I’ve slowly gained at least 35 pounds in the years while we’re living the sedentary lifestyle that trucking offers. I can’t blame it all on trucking. But lack of sleep, horrible food choices, driving non stop as a team for almost three years, has definitely contributed to my overall health issues.
I’m a firm believer in the trucking lifestyle has ruined my health. Sure, genetics have played a role. Most of my family has arthritis and forms of auto immune diseases. But I feel as if I would have taken better care of my health, had better food choices, stable sleep cycle and not slept while the truck was moving all those years, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today. Stressed out and worried about my health.
We decided to get a house this year after living out of the truck and I’ve been on and off the truck this year more than I’d care to admit. There were a few weeks where I wasn’t sure I’d make it. I had so much pain I was pushing away, that when I finally saw the doctor in February I broke down in her office and begged to make it all go away. She ran a bunch of tests and gave me the diagnoses the following week. The elevated A1C is new, I go back this week for fasting tests.
Since February, I’ve done a ton of research about fibromyalgia and arthritis. They also gave me some medicine that helps with inflammation. I’ve also started making a proactive effort to lose the 35 extra pounds trucking left me with. It was to the point I hated myself when my husband would take candid photos of me. I’ve lost 16 pounds. I still have a way to go but already feeling better.
I’ve been using Argus app to track my weight, what I eat, and my heart rate when exercising. I also joined a gym, but haven’t gone yet. The arthritis in my knees and fibro sometimes makes daily activity hard. Walking the dogs has been a great start. Cooking at home me has helped the most. I can control what and when I eat. That’s one thing about trucking. You never know what or when you can eat. You try to prepare but if a shipper holds you up, there goes your free time to get a hot meal.
Trucking and the grab and go lifestyle needs to change. In fact, most truck stops that offered restaurants are gone, they now have fast food with high calories. At least restaurants allow for healthier food choices like real veggies and salads. We have a fridge in the truck, but often we’d find ourselves at grocery stores that wouldn’t let us park to shop, or get stuck and run out of food before our next trip out. We’d try to plan, but it would never work out the way it should. Family and friends would always say, you shouldn’t eat out so much, but until you’re out here with all the time limits, clocks, lack of parking, and all the challenges trucking has, you learn to survive. And that’s about it.
Until the trucking industry makes the changes to allow drivers more than survive, you can bet it will be harder to fill those open positions. It goes beyond electronic logs and low wages. It goes beyond not being paid for a good portion of your time out there. It goes beyond lack of respect for drivers. It’s the whole picture. It’s working for a company that gives drivers time off when they’re sick. Not leaving drivers out when they have to miss a family funeral or family emergency because a company can’t get them home. It’s poor food choices because we’re not always allowed to park and shop for food. It’s also a high number of drivers who have heart attacks or strokes from the sedentary lifestyle. It’s about giving drivers a bathroom at your business instead of saying no.
Now a lot of drivers will say, welcome to trucking. And accept their fate. That attitude has to change. We need to stand up for bettering our industry and our food choices. Take charge of our health. Demand better from the companies we work for. Demand better for yourself. It’s not just about health eating, it’s about getting better health benefits for drivers and the time that allows them to use them.
I’m not sure of the answers, but I’m fairly confident that I’m not going to let a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, arthritis or whatever define shit for me. I do know how important it is for drivers to take care of their health. I’ve learned the hard way. My husband won’t stop long enough to go to the doctor. I hope he does soon. My diagnoses could have been a lot worse, luckily I caught everything in time. All I can do is better myself and share my story with others. What steps have you taken to control your health? Have an app you like to use? Do you exercise on the truck? Let us know in the comments.