In 2017, Barry Du Bois sat alongside his Living Room co-hosts and, his voice shaking, the father of two addressed his beloved viewers: “I got some bad news. It seems my cancer has come back, reasonably aggressively. Now, I have what’s regarded as multiple myloma…”
In this extract from his new book Life Force, co-written with Miguel Maestre, he reflects on why he chose to open up to the world.
Believe it or not, telling someone you’ve got cancer is draining. I summed it up like this: when someone asks ‘How are you going? I hear you’ve got cancer’, you can tell whether they think you’ll make it or not. Some people hug you and say you’re the strongest man they know; others are more, like, ‘Ah well, sorry …’ It’s like they’ve given up on you.
The power of the mind is incredible. If you come across three people in a row that give you the look that you’re not going to make it’ll, you start to lose faith.
So we decided that we’d share my diagnoses with the people who watched the show. We thought if we could take them with us on my journey, it might give others inspiration.
We cut the crew down to the essentials. We removed the studio audience. How would we play it? We didn’t know what to do so we were just ourselves. We ad-libbed. I told my story; Amanda, Chris and Miguel reacted. What came out of it was empowering to me. It was the first time most of the cameramen had heard the story. There were lots of tears.
But there was also belief. The amount of times I heard, ‘You’ll do it, Baz’. It was like when my dad told me I was the best at everything. If everyone tells you you can do it, you probably can.
If the people surrounding you have doubts, it’s tough.
Barry Du Bois talks to Mia Freedman about putting life on one plate. (Post continues below.)
It was two weeks before the show went to air. In the interim, I had agreed to be the MC of a fundraiser for the Many Faces of Cancer, a gig I’d signed up for at the beginning of the year. It was the story of how I had beaten cancer. It was the biggest mind-f**k of my life.
I was in the second round of four cycles of chemo. I had taped an episode of The Living Room that announced my cancer was back and was going to air in a couple of days. And there I was carrying this dreadful secret, pretending everything was OK. I was in a room full of people who wanted to get a kiss and take a photo. I tried to not breathe anyone’s germs because of my vulnerability to sickness. Even Leonie couldn’t kiss me at the time.
Listen to Barry's Interview with Mia Freedman here.
Other cancer victims explained to me how my positivity did so much for them.
Like I said, that was a difficult night to get my head around.
The night the show went to air was incredible. I dropped an Instagram post and it went ballistic. Thousands of people were right behind me one hundred per cent. I walked down the street and people yelled out things like, ‘Yeah, Bazza! Go Bazza!’ and ‘We love ya Baz’.
The spirit that can give a man!
But, still, I worry.
I love what I do. I love that I get to impart a little bit of my knowledge to five hundred or six hundred thousand people every week. People come up to me and tell me I’ve changed their life. That before The Living Room they never would’ve put grout on a tile or used a handsaw. They tell me I have a way that makes them confident to try.
When you’re given a gift like that and you can help charities because of your so-called ‘celebrity’ status, it’s something you don’t want to lose in a hurry.
This cancer threatens to take it away from me.
I never think it will, but you have to think it ... might ...
This is an extract from 'Life Force' by Barry Du Bois and Miguel Maestre, available now.