Barry Du Bois felt as if his leg was burning, with a fever going off the chart. Angry red tracks were zigzagging from his foot to his calf, as a potentially deadly infection took hold.
The celebrity builder’s immune system – knocked out by a double dose of cancer-fighting chemotherapy – could no longer protect him, so it was touch and go whether he’d pull through.
‘I thought I was gone,’ admits The Living Room favourite, recalling the health crisis that saw him only hours from death at Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital in February.
‘It was the dumbest thing. A bit of tinea between my toes had caused an infection that could’ve hit me in the heart.’
But defiant Barry reckons he’s not ready to leave wife Leonie, 53, or their adored twins Bennett and Arabella – born via an Indian surrogate nearly six years ago after their mum endured 12 failed rounds of IVF and a bout with cervical cancer.
‘S*** no, I don’t want to go,’ grins the 57-year-old larrikin – who fought off plasmacytoma in 2010, before tearfully revealing on television last October that his cancer had returned ‘reasonably aggressively’ in the form of multiple myeloma.
‘But let’s not kid ourselves. I don’t think I’m dying,’ he tells New Idea exclusively. ‘None of us gets out of here alive, but I don’t think I’m going to die. I believe in myself and I will instill in my children the same self-belief.’
Barry’s new book Life Force, written with best mate, co-host and chef Miguel Maestre, is the uplifting story of Barry’s cancer journey, family and philosophy, with a smorgasbord of delicious, nutritionally-tested, healthy recipes.
‘I have a Mexican party going on in my head’ – Miguel.
‘You can’t be in the room with this guy without being upbeat,’ grins Barry, in the face of relentless teasing about the loss of his ‘Hollywood hair’ from chemotherapy.
‘No-one likes to talk about it, but I already have more hair than Miguel, although he’s only 38.’
Laughing with this odd couple at a local cafe, it’s hard to believe that Barry battled depression for years after struggling through miscarriage after miscarriage with Leonie and seeing his beloved mother slowly die of cancer.
Does he feel that the disease has dogged his family?
‘Cancer dogs a lot of families,’ he replies.
‘I don’t like to use that word. It makes it sound like my life has not been good, but I have loved my life, every single part. Whether it’s been a dark journey or a light journey, it’s been a great journey.
‘Sure, I’ve had cancer twice and my wife had it and my mum died of it. But I can promise you something’s going to get all of us, so I don’t really focus on that stuff. I don’t put a lot of investment into things that don’t help me. It’s not hard to invest in things that are positive, like friendship. How easy it is to have a friend – and what a fantastic return it is!’
Cue Spanish-born Miguel, who hilariously responds: ‘You invest so much in other people, Barry. You invested so much in me, you’ve got nothing left!’
Together, the two down-to-earth amigos admit they were never made for TV.
‘We’ve been dropped into it,’ says Barry.
So, they’ve resolved to use their surprise fame for good, sharing everything they have learned about the healing power of family, friendship, positive thinking, and correct nutrition.
Perhaps, one day, there may even be a Life Force Foundation dedicated to helping others.
That’s their long-term dream.
And Barry, whose chemotherapy is now over, is determined that there will be a ‘long-term’.
For the full story see this weeks issue of New Idea - out now!