Ste Walker is a 24-year-old man who looks happy and healthy from the outside.
It may have been something of a shock then, when readers took a look at his story in People Magazine The Yorkshire man came to the publication’s attention following a Facebook post in which Walker discussed his lifelong battle with Crohn’s Disease and encouraged those who were judging him based on his public appearance alone not to go by what they see on the outside.
Crohn’s is a chronic, incurable inflammatory bowel disease that is closely related to ulcerative colitis. People with Crohn’s Disease are often plagued by bouts of pain, and few can remember what it’s like to have a day that is completely pain-free. In Ste Walker’s case, his Crohn’s Disease is quite severe, and as a result, he has not been able to eat anything by mouth for the last two years.
Walker is not alone. According to Buzzfeed, some 1.6 million Americans are living with the disease daily. It is, however, an invisible illness of sorts, and this can lead those who do not struggle with the disease to think that a Crohn’s patient is actually not disabled. That judgment alone can lead to a sense of loneliness, and a Crohn’s patient will need a strong circle of support to help.
Crohn’s is also a condition for which there seems to be no known cause. While the cause is often believed to be genetic, The Independent reports that the United Kingdom has seen a steady growth in the number of patients being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, and this has led some to speculate that it is perhaps the rise of those consuming junk food or an overuse of antibiotics that is contributing to the rise in the disease.
Walker’s case has grown so severe that he became fed up with people not thinking of him as being disabled, so he posted images of himself with the medical interventions he has required over the years in order to survive. He also said that because Crohn’s is an invisible illness, there are many who believe he is faking being disabled or somehow playing the system. Both are statements that he has become tired of.
“You don’t know what I go through on a daily basis, and you have no right to judge me just on your perception of me that you can see, because you don’t know what goes on inside,” he said via Facebook, according to People.
Walker has reportedly undergone three major life-saving surgeries to help manage his Crohn’s Disease. He has an ileostomy bag to rid his system of waste, a feeding tube to ensure he gets the proper nutrition he requires, and a nasogastric tube to help drain his stomach. He posted an image of his shirtless self to help people become more aware of what he lives with daily and to shed some light on invisible illnesses in general.
“Just because I look normal and speak normal, that doesn’t mean I don’t have a major disability,” he said of the judgment that comes with living with Crohn’s or any other invisible illness. “I look like any normal guy my age, but that’s because I want you to view me like that. Look a bit closer, or ask me questions, and you will soon realize that I have a major illness.”
There is an increasing awareness of invisible illnesses, and Ste Walker has certainly helped build that awareness. According to the Invisible Illness Week website, the number of Americans who are projected to have invisible illnesses, including Crohn’s, colitis, arthritis, and depression, is expected to rise to 157 million by 2020, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That means that Walker’s post about not judging those with invisible illnesses like Crohn’s is even more timely.
(By Nephron (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons))