Across the trucking industry, there is one terrible little challenge we all must come to terms with: we are sedentary. Be it in a truck or in an office, we are an industry of people who are not always able to be as up and active as we would like. And with that sitting comes challenges you wouldn’t even think about until it affected you. On a personal level, I have lymphedema, which is a condition where swelling occurs due to fluid buildup that can’t be drained by the lymphatic system. It can be caused by cancer treatments, injuries, or, in my case, frostbite. Lymphedema comes in varying levels of severity, from just a little discomfort to extreme swelling. It is not a condition that can be cured, but it can be treated with massages, diet, exercise, and elevating the effect limb. As you can imagine, it is not exactly the best condition one could have while also having a sit-down job.
I was diagnosed with lymphedema right out of college. For weeks I thought that my foot was broken. It was swollen and so painful I could barely walk. Further tests revealed that the tissue in my foot had been damaged by mild frostbite I developed during a walk home from school I made during a blizzard. The blizzard had come on quickly during the school day. I didn’t have a car, no one could give me a ride, and I walked home every day. My normal 20-minute walk turned into an hour of trudging through increasingly deep ice and snow. After I realized how cold and numb my foot was, the worst came the next day when I had warmed up. It was like my foot was being crushed by a vice, just a constant cramp. Slowly, the pain disappeared, and I thought that was it, that I had beaten frostbite and was on my way to a full recovery.
This was a complication I had not considered for my post-graduate life. While I was able to get my very mild case of lymphedema under control, it hasn’t been easy. Sitting at a desk means leaving my foot to just sit flat on the floor, where fluid accumulates throughout the day. A very active job in heat can also cause swelling.
Of course, there is also the part you don’t consider when working at any job, but especially in trucking: unhealthy food. Be it on the road or in the office, we are surrounded by delicious salty snacks and unhealthy meals. And yes, those affect fluid buildup as well!
It can be very difficult to tell anyone that you’re having difficulty because your leg hurts. The average person might not understand the pain, the embarrassment when you must take it slow. I have been quite blessed to work at Buchanan, an employer who is willing to provide accommodations for those with conditions or difficulties like mine. Buchanan values hard work, but my managers also understand when I need to get up and walk around. We are focusing more on healthy snacks for our carry-ins, and the vending machines are full of healthier options. The health goals and wellness activities put forth by our insurance have made making healthy choices seem so much more attainable. All of these combine to make my workday so much easier and productive. It is never easy when you have to cede control of a part of your life to an unexpected medical condition, but knowing that my work gives me so many opportunities, despite it, certainly helps so much more than you could ever know.