To ring in his 19th birthday Saturday, high school graduate Kaden Van Buren completed the Abbotsford version of the Grouse Grind – 19 times.
The Aldergrove teen started at midnight, to cover more than 68 kilometres of steep ground on the Glen Ryder Trail on his day off work from Newlands Golf Course.
By 3 p.m. Van Buren had trekked up and down the steep face of the Abby Grind for 15 hours straight, cheered on by “Rise and Grinders” he’d met previously on the hike.
To those who know the now-19 year old, the feat was baffling.
Just a year ago Van Buren could barely make it out of bed, let alone manage a continuous ascent and descent of more than 15,000 metres in one go.
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Two years ago Van Buren was diagnosed with a form of arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, as well as Crohn’s disease.
His conditions gradually worsened until August 2019, when he found himself immobilized by pain in his joints. He was in and out of doctors’ offices and hospital emergency rooms.
“It hurt to sleep,” he said, mentioning a number of medications he tried to relieve his agony.
Close family friend Teresa Penner admitted she was unsure whether Van Buren was going to make it another year after watching the teen struggle with stairs at the Chief Sepass Theatre, where he photographs for LifeApp community events.
To hike out in nature had become a far-off dream, one Van Buren tried to keep alive as an amateur photographer with more than 29,000 followers on Instagram.
“I couldn’t hike for the longest time. I’d get up and walk shorter walks on flat ground, and take photos from there. But it was still so painful,” he said.
“What kept me going while in crutches was the hope of being able to chase my dream of landscape photography one day,” he shared.
“Hope – that was the biggest thing. To find a passion for something. That kept me going.”
Along Van Buren’s journey back to health, he discovered dual passions for trail running and cycling, too.
It was a combination of treatments that allowed him to get up and move again.
After putting himself on a strict diet and spending hours each day exercising to improve his condition, the teen promised himself if he ever got better he wouldn’t take for granted the ability to run or walk.
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A biologic medication, adalimumab, helped him regain his strength to the point of something “freakishly unbelievable,” Penner remarked.
“Once I started feeling a lot better it made me so grateful,” Van Buren said.
“It’s the best feeling ever. I have a new perspective on life after being able to walk around and run freely again. It made me want to push myself and see how far my body can go.”
Van Buren’s next goal is to top the fastest recorded completion of the Abby Grind, which currently stands at 27 minutes (up and down).
So far, Van Buren’s personal record is 29 minutes.
“This weekend or the next I’m going to beat that time,” he said.
I can't believe that I dropped you off at 12 p.m. last night at the base of a mountain in the middle of nowhere, in…
Posted by Kirk Van Buren on Sunday, July 12, 2020
Nowadays, with physical exercise, Van Buren only feels slight twinges from the arthritis in his right hip.
Though in comparison to last year, the active teen said “it’s nothing bad.”