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Message of hope amid despair of cancer fight

Patrick Bean may have just months to live.

After decades of drug abuse, spells in Westgate's maximum security wing and increasing isolation from his family, the prospect of succumbing to the bone marrow cancer that was diagnosed less than three weeks ago is as sobering as it is terrifying.

But the devastating news has prompted him to speak out against the very vices that have ravaged his life since he first tried marijuana at 14, and then moved on to crack at 20.

His message to other young men is straightforward: “Don't do what I did.”

His hope for the future is equally simple: “I want to hear my mother tell me she is proud of me, and I want my family to be proud of me.

“I want to support my son in his career and be a better grandfather than I was a father. Most importantly, I want to have a positive impact on society.”

Last month, the 50-year-old writer was told that he had acute myeloid leukaemia and that without treatment he would be dead within months. His chequered past and a drugs conviction that resulted in him being put on the United States stop list came back to haunt him and initially prevented him leaving Bermuda to receive the potentially life-saving treatment.

However, last Friday, thanks to a waiver from the US Department of Immigration, he left Bermuda bound for Lahey Hospital in Boston for a brutal regime of intensive chemotherapy that he hopes will give him the chance of redemption.

“Regardless of which way it goes for me, I want this, my life, to have a positive impact on someone, even if that is about what not to do,” Mr Bean said. “The situation I am in now is not necessarily a surprise, after the toxins I have put into my body, but it is 100 per cent a result of my decision to take drugs.

“You can learn a lot from a dummy, and I guess I am the dummy.”

Mr Bean grew up in Sandys, attending Somerset Primary School before moving to Saltus Grammar School. In his words, he was a “studious and sporty student”.

After a year working for the Bank of Butterfield, he moved to school overseas at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

“I had no intention of studying anything, and I achieved that,” he said. “Attending class was not on my agenda at that time. I ended up transferring to Morgan State University in Baltimore and pretty much just turned up for exams.

“I would come back to Bermuda in the summers and one year a friend of mine had taken up smoking crack cocaine.

“I asked if I could have some. I was about 20. It was the worst decision of my life and has proved disastrous. It killed all my dreams.”

For the next two decades, his reliance on the drug has dominated his life. He twice worked as a sports reporter for The Royal Gazette, excelling with a peerless ability to bring stories to life, but his once-promising career faltered ultimately because of his drug addiction. He stole from his own father and acquired a criminal record after getting caught up in a police raid in the “42nd Street” area — St Monica's Road in Pembroke — as he tried to buy drugs.

By 21 he was on the US stop list. He had also become a father.

“My son was born in the US and I was down here smoking when he was born,” Mr Bean said. “I did not see him until two weeks after he was born. I regret not playing with him more, and not being there for him. I remained in the US until he started school and I came back to Bermuda.”

In 2003, Mr Bean was in trouble with the law again. He stole some blank cheques from his employers and broke into a neighbouring business property. He used the money to go on a drugs binge before handing himself over to police.

The conviction prompted a flurry of short prison terms, interspersed with much longer drug rehabilitation programmes in both Bermuda and Georgia. Despite jail time, drug programmes and the sad fact that he has seen his granddaughters only twice, Mr Bean has always given in to his drug demons. That is, until now, he says.

“I have turned my back on drugs. But it's not easy. Every day is a challenge. I still think about getting high all the time. Part of the thing with cancer is you think you might as well go out and do what you want because what have you got to lose.

“Right now, I don't know what the future holds, so there's a lot of trepidation. But even more than that there is hope I can still make a positive impact on society.”

Seeking a window of opportunity: Patrick Bean hopes intensive chemotherapy will give him a chance of redemption. (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published June 07, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated June 07, 2016 at 1:57 am)

Message of hope amid despair of cancer fight

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