Barry Du Bois is not a religious man, but when the builder-turned-TV host was undergoing a double dose of chemotherapy in 2017, he prayed. He prayed for strength; not the spiritual or emotional kind, the kind that meant he could lift his own children.
Du Bois was diagnosed with cancer of the bone marrow (plasmacytoma myeloma) back in 2011 after suffering persistent neck pain. Surgery and radiotherapy kept the disease at bay for six years, until it returned as multiple myeloma in 2017.
The aggressive treatment sapped the fit, active star of The Living Room of his usual vigour. In a piece for Men’s Health Australia magazine, Du Bois wrote that he felt “helpless and weak”, a feeling that he worried may one day colour his kids’ memories of him.
“You see, I have these incredible memories of the strength of my father, and I was very worried that my own children would remember me as a weak person who was a burden on their mother,” the 59-year-old wrote. “I’m a very positive guy, but that thought really haunted me.”
Listen: Barry Du Bois shares how fatherhood gave him a whole new strength. Post continues after.
The path to parenthood was a difficult one for Du Bois and his partner, Leonie Tobler. Speaking to Mamamia‘s No Filter podcast in 2018, Du Bois recalled the grief of multiple miscarriages and the challenges of failed IVF.
“We went from little heartbeats to sobbing, many many times,” he said. “And IVF, it’s not making love; it’s jabbing your partner with needles 30 times a month and being told at a certain time ‘go for it, as hard as you can’. What an imbalanced plate that is.”
Leonie was later diagnosed with cervical cancer. Saving her life meant undergoing a radical hysterectomy.
Their children — now seven-year-old twins Arabella and Bennett — eventually came into their lives via an Indian surrogate — an experience he described as “incredible”. It’s a word he also used to explain fatherhood.
“I’m a pretty simple guy; I think that’s why we’re here, to procreate and leave a legacy. The legacy, so far, is love, sense of belonging, warmth, nutrition, security. Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs’, that’s what it is,” he said.