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In an emotional interview, Barry Du Bois opens up on life with cancer and his twin “angels”

“I’m not going to be there to hold them”
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Barry Du Bois is a strong man. An athletic kid who grew up to be a master builder who became Australia’s DIY guru on The Living Room.

But partway through the interview with TV WEEK, Barry gets too choked up to speak. The topic has turned to his nine-year-old twins, Bennet and Arabella.

“I’m 61 with cancer,” he says. “I’m not going to be there to hold them.”

Barry opens up about his future.

(Image: Paul Suesse, TV WEEK)

Sydney is in lockdown, and Barry’s wife Leonie Tobler is home-schooling Bennet and Arabella at their house in Bondi.

Barry has walked down to the beach and is looking out over the sea as he talks about being “petrified” for the future of his children. That’s why he’s entering politics and running as an independent candidate for the Senate.

“I believe that if I was there, I could hold my children, even when they’re a man and a woman, and protect them and fight for them, and I just don’t believe that’s the future,” he says.

“Let’s just say the doctor is right, and three years ago, when he said, ‘You have five years to go,’ I have two years left.

“If I don’t do this, I have failed the 63 years of my life. To honour my life and the experiences it’s given me, I need to do this.”

With his biggest supporters, Arabella and Bennet.

(Image: Instagram)

Barry describes his life as “a blessing”. Born and raised in Sydney’s west, he became an apprentice carpenter when he left school, and from there went on to run his own building company.

“I came from a two-bedroom fibro house in the western suburbs to where I am thanks to innovation and capitalism and the free market,” he says.

The young tradie had a lot of love for the environment. In 1981, he joined the protest against the Gordon-below-Franklin dam in Tasmania.

“I didn’t actually chain myself to a tree, but I was there helping others chain themselves,” he remembers. “I stood there in front of bulldozers.”

Barry turned an apprenticeship into everything he has today.

(Image: Instagram)

As for Barry’s love story with Leonie, that began nearly 30 years ago, when he walked into her cafe.

“I had a point of view and she had a very different point of view and we argued that,” he remembers. “That strength, that self-belief, is a very attractive thing to me.

“She was very different to many of the girls I’d dated. There was a certain intellectual stimulation there. And she’s beautiful, there’s no doubt about that.”

Barry has been open about his and Leonie’s long journey to become parents. It included numerous attempts at IVF and both of them battling cancer before they finally welcomed their twins via a surrogate in India.

“There was heartache on the journey,” he says. “But today is a part of that journey and it’s the most beautiful one there is. I have my twins, my angels.

“It may have created tears, and 13 miscarriages… God knows I know what that scream from the toilet sounds like. It’s heartbreaking, but if I hadn’t have heard them, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have my angels.”

Arabella and Bennet are their dad’s biggest fans.

(Image: Instagram)

To Barry, his twins are “the most beautiful things on Earth”.

“I stare at them endlessly,” he says. “I can’t see how something that perfect came out of me, but it did.”

With home-schooling, Barry says Bennet, in particular, is “thriving” with the help he’s getting from Leonie.

“I got very little from school, and I believe home-schooling would have been great for me, as it is for Bennet. He’s getting the one-on-one time he needs.”

Both kids love skateboarding and other sports, with Bennet dreaming of becoming a professional basketballer.

“Arabella wants to be something different every week,” Barry adds. “When The Voice is on, she wants to be a singer. When Daddy’s on, she wants to be an architect.”

Barry calls his twins his “angels”

(Image: Paul Suesse, TV WEEK)

For the twins, Barry’s co-hosts on The Living Room – Amanda Keller, Dr Chris Brown and Miguel Maestre – are part of the family.

“They adore Amanda. It’s like they’re seeing their auntie on TV. They adore Chris and the animals, and both are always inspired by Miguel. My wife is an incredible cook and they refer to themselves as ‘cooking like Miguel’ when they’re helping Mum.”

Barry’s co-hosts and the show’s viewers were crying with him in 2017 when he announced that his cancer, plasmacytoma myeloma, had returned after six years in remission. Right now, he says he’s “as healthy as I can be”.

“I do 50 push-ups every morning, 50 every night, I walk on the beach, I eat organic food, I meditate, and I’m ready for any fight. I don’t bog down on death.”

Miguel, Barry, Amanda and Chris are a much-loved group on The Living Room.

(Image: 10)

Being a father has made Barry focus on what life might be like for Bennet and Arabella. He thinks Australia is “heading in the wrong direction”, with people not looking out for each other as they used to, and believes the way for him to change that is within the Senate.

“I want to leave a legacy,” he says.

Barry says his kids understand that he wants to get into politics “as well as a nine-year-old can understand it”.

“I asked them a couple of years ago, ‘What does Daddy do for work?’ and they said, ‘You ask Amanda who you should help this week.’

“They see me as a person they’re proud of. They believe I’m doing good things, whatever I’m doing.”

The Living Room airs Friday, 7.30pm on 10.

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