Meet Logan Huttunen. Like many 12-year-olds, his interests are diverse: he is a LEGO enthusiast, a brass musician, and a multidisciplinary athlete, participating in everything from soccer and baseball to skiing and mountain biking. Unlike many 12-year-olds, he has spent a third of his life battling against a chronic illness.
It was in January 2015, while on a ski holiday, when Logan and his parents noticed something wrong: bloody stool.
Back at home in Vancouver, British Columbia, Logan’s parents immediately took him to see a pediatrician, who promptly referred him to a gastroenterologist at BC Children’s Hospital. There, the then-third grader braved upper and lower GI scopes.
The fear and uncertainty that plagued Logan and his family temporarily disappeared when the doctors put a name to the symptoms the third-grader was experiencing: ulcerative colitis. But a fresh wave of concern quickly washed over Logan’s parents as the reality of the diagnosis settled in. They wondered what the future would hold for their son, who will live the rest of his life accompanied by a chronic autoimmune disease.
The thing with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is that your life completely changes after your diagnosis.
While other boys can see their friends and learn at school every day, Logan misses school once a month to get his Remicade infusions at the hospital. While other boys might be able to enjoy their meals without repercussion, Logan often has stomachaches after dinner. He goes straight from the dinner table to the couch, where he lays down with his “heaty bear.”
“As a parent,” says his mom Jennifer, “I worry about the impact of the disease and its treatments.”
She is always prepared to provide support to her son. She takes Logan to all of his doctor’s appointments, and is “on-call” herself, ready to be by his side whenever he doesn’t feel well.
Yet, Logan has accepted this as his new “normal.” According to his mom, he “copes surprisingly well.” Tough and courageous, Logan “accepts the reality of living with a chronic illness and only occasionally complains.”
Familiar with the unsettling concoction of feelings one might have when first diagnosed with Crohn’s or colitis, Logan and Jennifer recommend having “the courage to face the challenges of the illness. Enjoy life when you are feeling well—and hope for a time when those days come more often than not.”
Everyone provides and finds support in different ways. Logan and Jennifer do so by lending an ear to those who need it and sharing their story in return.
The Huttunen family found comfort and friendship in OMG IBD, the BC Children’s Hospital’s IBD support group. It was through this tight-knit circle that Logan met Sam, who lives with Crohn’s disease. They were sitting at the same table, and made an instant connection. In 2016, the two boys and their families began their Gutsy Walk journey together, as part of the OMG IBD team.
“We like to help others and create awareness,” says Jennifer. “We […] realize the importance of fundraising to […] support research with the hopes for better treatments or [cures].”
It is uplifting to see others who are familiar with your reality. Logan appreciates knowing that other kids are going through the same things he is. It helps him cope with the unpleasant aspects of the disease.
The Gutsy Walk is a way for those affected by Crohn’s and colitis to show each other they are not alone. This year, Logan and Sam will have the chance to lead the IBD community in a day of solidarity against these diseases as the Gutsy Walk National Honorary Co-Chairs. Along with all the participants across our 60 walk sites, they will come together and walk toward a future free of Crohn’s and colitis.
The Gutsy Walk is on Sunday, June 2, 2019. Register, donate, or become a volunteer today.