Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

AB hopeful: 'At times I couldn't get out of bed'

James Lowe was diagnosed with arthritis as a teenager. Photo / Getty Images
James Lowe was diagnosed with arthritis as a teenager. Photo / Getty Images

Top Super Rugby player James Lowe has spoken out about his fight to overcome arthritis as he strives to make the All Blacks this year.

Strong form has seen the Chiefs winger - who missed last night's clash with the Hurricanes due to a shoulder injury - in the frame for a New Zealand call-up.

And if he makes the men in black it will cap a remarkable sporting journey which hit an agonising halt during his teens when blood tests revealed he had Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. The condition eventually left him bedridden.

The situation is now contained through a weekly, self-administered injection of the drug Etanercept plus painkiller pills. He calls this regime his "miracle cure".

Lowe, the 23-year-old who was born and raised in Nelson, is now carrying a message of hope to other young arthritis sufferers and their bewildered parents.

"It will always remain a big part of my life through the physical effects or indirectly through how I enjoy talking to kids who are going through the things I went through.

"I can shine a light for them. It's not all doom and gloom. You can come out the other side."

Lowe and his family went through tough times as they searched for the proper diagnosis and medication.

"At times I couldn't get out of bed and go to the bathroom myself. My sister has a video of me using a walking frame like old people have.

"When it was bad it would mainly attack my knees. Some days I couldn't pick up a knife and fork and the next day it would be in my feet and my hands would be fine.

"At the time I was scared. I think I had about eight months off sport and I lost 10kg in the first two weeks."

In late 2010, his father, Geoff, told the national arthritis newsletter how young James could only spend two hours a day at Nelson College, and that mates would have to pick him up after falls.

"No one knew kids could get arthritis," his father recalled.

James Lowe says six weeks after starting Etanercept, he was back playing sport and made the 2010 New Zealand schools side.

Around this time, Arthritis New Zealand flew Lowe to meet Wellington's All Black prop Neemia Tialata, an arthritis sufferer and ambassador for the organisation. Lowe now passes a similar message of hope to others.

"To hear the encouraging words from someone like Neemia who had made it was awesome.

"It's a crazy thing - you are talking to kids as young as 3 and as old as 15. A lot of them are scared and I was exactly the same.

"I try to tell them to keep positive and the parents like hearing that.

"I guess my motivation was seeing how upset my parents were, especially my dad. Yes, life can be cruel but you can still achieve things you dream about as a kid. If anything, it should make you stronger."

- Herald on Sunday

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