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Running battle

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Fighting spirit: Jon Beard, who lost his wife and father to cancer, and has beaten prostate cancer himself (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Cancer “knocked the hell” out of Jon Beard’s life.

It took his wife, Jennie, in 2009 and then his father, Ray.

In 2014, Mr Beard found out he had prostate cancer, the disease that had killed his father the year before.

“It was disconcerting to develop it myself after losing my wife and father to it,” the 63-year-old said.

“But what I learnt from them is to do what you can to keep your quality of life, for however much time you have left.”

He was relieved when doctors recommended surgery.

His wife spent her last four years undergoing radiation treatment at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore because it couldn’t be done here. He knew just how disruptive it could be to a person’s life.

“Friends’ birthdays, Christmases, we wanted to be there, but we just couldn’t,” said Mr Beard, who is now cancer-free. “When you’re dealing with something like this, your whole life narrows.

“She was deputy head at Saltus Cavendish. In the beginning, she might have been able to keep working, but she couldn’t because she had to go overseas for treatment.

“With surgery I was back at work within three weeks.”

He’s thrilled that once the Bermuda Cancer and Health Centre’s radiation therapy unit is completed next month, families will no longer have to travel. He’s also a little sad it wasn’t available to his wife when she was sick.

“I drive past it every day on my way to work,” he said of the Point Finger Road, Paget facility. “I’ve been watching it go up.”

Mr Beard has supported the project for the last three years through Relay for Life. The Bermuda Cancer and Health Centre runs the event over 24 hours each May in an effort to increase cancer awareness and raise funds for cancer prevention and detection. It’s hoped it will raise $600,000 for the radiation unit; the charity has an additional $4 million to go.

“It’s great to feel like you can do something to fight cancer,” Mr Beard said. “The first time I took part, I still felt a bit raw, but the event was so uplifting. I know that’s corny, but it was just wonderful to see all those people coming together to support each other.”

Mr Beard participates with a team from Saltus where he is deputy head in charge of development. He worked at the Pembroke school for 26 years as a physical education teacher before moving into administration.

“Most people here at the school have been touched by cancer, in some way,” he said. “This year, we’re hoping to get more students involved.

“A lot of our younger students take part in St Baldrick’s Day. They do phenomenally. With this event, we’d like to see older students take part, but there is no pressure. It’s up to them. Whatever we raise will be good. It’s a way to fight back against cancer. Until someone finds a miraculous cure for cancer, at least we are trying.”

•The Bermuda Cancer and Health Centre will host a town hall meeting on radiation therapy at the World Heritage Centre, St George’s tomorrow from 6pm-7.30pm. For more information telephone 236-1001. Relay for Life takes place May 12 and 13 at the Bermuda National Sports Centre. For more information see bermudarelay.com.

Jon Beard (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Marching on: Jon Beard is getting ready for Relay for Life (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Jon Beard (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Jon and Jennie Beard (Photograph supplied)