Pink – the colour of bubble gum, (most) little girls’ bedrooms, and flamingos. Of course, for those who have been or are affected by breast cancer this colour takes on a whole new significance and meaning the second the diagnosis has been confirmed.
Joanne Mackenzie has been driving trucks professionally for 23 years and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.
Almost 12 of those years have been with Highland Transport based out of Markham, Ont., a workplace she says she loves and is proud of.
Mackenzie got started in trucking back in 1991 when her then-husband, who also drove professionally, took her out on the road for one of his long-haul trips.
“I used to bug him and ask him when he was going to teach me how to drive truck and this one time he actually let me take the wheel,” she recalled. “We were in the flatlands in Montana and it just overwhelmed me and I thought I could handle doing this and that kind of sparked a bigger interest in driving for me.”
At the time, Mackenzie worked for a courier company and drove a cube van. With driving in her veins, she decided that she would try her luck and get her A/Z licence.
With the help of many “amazing mentors,” Mackenzie did just that.
Like many other drivers, her favourite part about the job has been all the travelling.
Mackenzie said she has visited every province and territory in Canada and all the contiguous states in the US.
“In my earlier years, the travelling was just amazing, and getting to meet all these people. We’ve got beautiful land and I don’t think people realize it,” she said. “It’s amazing to be able to drive through it, especially northern Ontario in the summertime.”
Now, Mackenzie doesn’t go as far during her time on the road.
“I run the corridor,” she said. “I go shorter distances now, I still go to the US – like New York and Pennsylvania, but mostly I run the corridor back and forth. It gives me the opportunity to work outside of my driving job on things I’m passionate about. It also allows me more home time.”
Mackenzie’s other passion is generating breast cancer awareness.
She is currently the organizer for Trucking for a Cure – a community event partner in the support of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation – Ontario Region.
Trucking for a Cure holds annual convoys where drivers from Ontario decorate their rigs in pink and roll down the road in support of cancer research.
The event is one of the top 10 fundraisers on behalf of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation in the Ontario region.
“In 2013, we won the outstanding community event with the foundation which was quite an honour,” said Mackenzie. “To be honoured with this award was amazing, especially knowing (trucking/transportation) is not an area that the foundation had ever approached for fundraising.
“The foundation is quite impressed with us and they invite us to all of their functions. It’s been growing since day one and they’re behind us 100%.”
Breast cancer is an issue that is close to home for Mackenzie as she herself was diagnosed with the disease back in 2006. Today, she is cancer-free.
“I’m a breast cancer survivor and there’s a lot of men and women out there who are definitely warriors and survivors,” said Mackenzie. “I don’t consider myself a warrior because I have so many friends who are dealing with so much more than I did when I got diagnosed with my breast cancer.”
Thanks in large part to her aunt (who had breast cancer and taught Mackenzie a great deal about the disease), Mackenzie was able to catch her cancer at an early stage and it was eliminated through a few rounds of radiation.
Mackenzie says that in addition to helping the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, she hopes to educate more people on the disease.
“I’m a true believer of knowing your body and knowing your breasts,” she said. “Having that education in front of me and knowing my aunt lost her breasts, I think that’s what’s saved me, is being breast-aware and being educated on the disease.”
Unfortunately, Mackenzie lost her aunt to breast cancer in November 2007, though Mackenzie commemorates her every day by keeping a picture of her in her truck.
To date, Trucking for a Cure has contributed more than $300,000 to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.
This year, at its fifth annual convoy event, Trucking for a Cure hosted two convoys (one in Prescott, Ont. on Sept. 6 and one in Woodstock, Ont. on Oct. 4) that raked in more than $70,000.
“I don’t know what we’d do without our volunteers, all of these men and women who take time from their everyday lives to promote our event as well as our wonderful sponsors,” she said. “And of course, our drivers are the heart and soul of our event. You need to come out to the convoy to understand what these guys put into it.
“They show up with their mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, sons and they just get into the pink and decorate their truck. So many of them are doing it because someone they know have been touched with some kind of cancer and this is a way for them to show their support and to honour them.
“Every year it just blows me away. These guys just come up with better ideas on how to pink out a big rig.”
Mackenzie says the convoy is more than just raising awareness for cancer.
She says that the convoy sheds a positive (and pink) light on the trucking industry itself and that she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s a great feeling that we’ve made our mark in the industry,” she said. “The convoy really helps with the trucking image.
“It really shows that we’re professionals and that we’re people too – we don’t just move the economy like some people think.”