Students and staff at North Pines Middle School crowded the halls Friday, moving from one class to another. It looked like a typical day, but for one thing. Almost everyone was wearing purple.
Purple Day at the middle school honored one of their classmates, Logan Becker, a seventh-grader who was diagnosed with desmoplastic small round cell tumor, an aggressive and rare form of cancer.
The idea of wearing purple for Logan came from the Associated Student Body officers. President Jeric Williamson, an eighth-grader, said they originally thought to wear pink for breast cancer awareness but opted to wear purple to represent all cancers, and Logan’s, too, which is represented by purple and red.
Destiny Gilliland, an eighth-grader, dyed the tips of her hair purple in support. She said she visited a sixth-grade classroom Friday and was surprised at how many students participated.
“The whole class came out in purple,” she said.
Logan’s mother, Nicole Carlson, said the support the students and staff have shown her son has meant so much to her family.
“It’s been nice,” she said. “It helps him. It helps him to know people still think of him.”
Logan, 12, first became sick on Mother’s Day. He woke up in the middle of the night vomiting. By the next night, he had a fever and abdominal pain. His mother thought it was his appendix, but doctors found a tumor. When they went to biopsy the tumor, they found it was 7-by-4 inches and had perforated his colon – but the bile and other matter in his colon were killing the tumor.
“He should have been sicker,” Carlson said.
Doctors managed to save a third of his colon and he has been receiving chemotherapy treatments. He still has a tumor, but the chemo has reduced it from the size of a softball to the size of a racquetball. On Friday, while his classmates were dressing in purple for him, he received a stem-cell replacement of his own stem cells.
“He got to be his own donor,” Carlson said. The process took 10 hours.
On Sunday, Logan came down with a fever and went back into the hospital. Carlson said he has another surgery scheduled to remove the remaining tumor, but it’s not for a few more weeks. She doesn’t expect him to be back at school until this spring.
Principal Gordon Grassi said they have arranged for Logan to work with a tutor so he doesn’t get behind in school while he’s sick.
“He’s a tough kid,” Grassi said.
Along with wearing purple, students signed and wrote on large banners, which they gave to Logan and his family.
“I think it’s crazy,” said Jayden Immonen, one of Becker’s friends at school. “It just wasn’t expected.”
Jayden said he remembers not seeing Logan around for a few days at school when he received a text message from Logan to tell him he had cancer.
“I was in such shock,” Jayden said.
One of the things Jayden likes about Logan is his sense of humor.
“He’s really funny,” Jayden said. “He just always has something to say that is funny to everybody.”
“He likes to think he is,” his mother joked. “He can be friends with anybody.”
Grassi said it was the students who came up with the idea to honor Logan, not the staff.
“Kids are really stepping up on their own,” he said. In the past few months there was a fundraiser for Logan at Waddell’s Neighborhood Pub and Grille on the South Hill that was very well-attended, and many students and teachers have purchased “Team Logan” wristbands.
Carlson has been keeping the school informed and has been blogging about Logan’s condition. She said kids have been writing him letters and coming to see him when his condition allows it.
When Logan saw the three signed banners, he read all of them.
“They’ve been amazing,” Carlson said.