In 7th heaven just to be alive

Can­cer left for­mer teen heart­throb Barry Wat­son a hap­pier and wiser man, writes Siob­han Duck

Herald Sun - Switched On - - News -

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.

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