Billy Bowden was a cricket player in New Zealand, who has now had to turn to umpiring because of his Rheumatoid Arthritis. He also had a cameo in Slumdog Millionaire.
Until four years ago, when he became an ambassador for Arthritis New Zealand, he didn’t talk about it publicly. “Was it because I was embarrassed, because I was a failure, my faith was tested… because it was why, why me?” he says. “I was healthy, only 21, my life was in front of me, and it was an injustice. I wasn’t happy.”
Eventually, his strong Baptist upbringing allowed him to reach a more positive conclusion. “Arthritis has been good for me, because I am sitting here now talking to you about something I would probably never have done if I had been healthy and played cricket. God has got a plan for everyone, and that was my plan… my arthritis has changed my life and turned me into someone I might not have been.”
Ignore the capering: he’s clearly a dedicated professional. Nowadays, for example, his ascetic lifestyle means he barely feels any pain from his arthritis. Bowden is virtually teetotal (except for a South African drink called amarula, he prefers a mixture of ginger ale and pineapple juice), he doesn’t smoke, he gets at least seven hours’ sleep, does 30 minutes of exercise a day and follows a diet planned by Jenny. “Some people think I’m on something, some kind of pill or tablet, but I just tell them that I’m high on life.”