In 7th heaven just to be alive
Cancer left former teen heartthrob Barry Watson a happier and wiser man, writes Siobhan Duck
BEING diagnosed with cancer at 28 is enough to leave anyone reeling. What made things even worse for actor Barry Watson was that his condition was announced on the evening news — before he had even had a chance to tell some of his closest family and friends.
Watson (right), who now stars in Samantha Who?, had just finished a six-year stint on the Aaron Spelling drama 7th Heaven when he discovered he had Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Suddenly free from the gruelling schedule of filming a television show, Watson says he had been looking forward to taking the next step in his career and auditioning for new roles.
Instead he found himself travelling to and from the hospital for chemotherapy.
‘‘I found this lymph node sticking out of my neck and that was what triggered me going to the doctor for tests,’’ he says.
‘‘Looking back now I realise that I had symptoms before that but hadn’t recognised it was cancer.
‘‘I didn’t want to deal with it so publicly.
‘‘I wanted to deal with it quietly but when I got home from the doctor’s appointment there were tabloid people waiting outside the house so I called my publicist and told them to release a statement.
‘‘I wanted to make sure that the information that was released was truthful.
‘‘Unfortunately a lot of my friends found out when they saw the news that night. It was on the ticker across the bottom of the screen.
‘‘That’s not the way you want your friends and family to find out you have cancer.’’
Now 33, a father of two and cancer-free since 2003, Watson says that, looking back, being diagnosed with cancer may have been one of the best things that happened to him.
‘‘I was 28 when I found out, that’s when most people get Hodgkin’s lymphoma,’’ he says.
‘‘Luckily I was in my 20s so I still thought I was invincible.
‘‘I had my ups and downs, but I mostly look at it as a great thing.
‘‘It opened my eyes to what’s important.
‘‘I wake up now and am happy just to be breathing.’’
After the story broke that he had cancer, Watson says he used an alias at the hospital so he could go through his treatment in relative peace.
‘‘I had chemo and lost all my hair,’’ he says.
‘‘But that turned out to be a good thing. When I lost my hair I didn’t look like me. It was like being incognito. I could go anywhere I wanted without being recognised.’’
Though he has experienced the downside of fame, Watson is also the first to laugh about it.
He poked fun at his teen heartthrob status, playing himself alongside That ’70s Show star Topher Grace, Charmed actor Holly Marie Coombs and Dawson’s Creek’s Joshua Jackson in the movie Ocean’s 11.
Though he was only in one scene — where Brad Pitt’s character tries to teach Hollywood stars to play poker — Watson says he learned a lot from his Ocean’s 11 experience.