Man with terminal cancer grateful for the generosity ‘river people’ have given him on his fateful trip down the Mississippi River
Kelly Phillips has no real plans for the future, but the terminally ill 50-year-old cancer patient knows what the future holds for him.
Ironically, it’s not his inevitable death from sinus cancer Phillips fears. Given three months to live, 18 months later he knows he’s living on borrowed time. His prognosis led to his decision he was not going to die in a hospital.
“My plan when I set out was to just drift down the Mississippi River until I died,” Phillips said from his modest houseboat anchored at a makeshift dock at Plaquemine, where he’s been for the past couple of weeks.
“If I die tomorrow, I’m good,” he says. “What I’m afraid of now is what am going to do if I reach the delta. I have no plans beyond that.”
The further south he gets, the more likely it becomes that he’s going to have to face that decision, though.
Phillips said he credits the grace of God – “I have done it so far but it’s God who’s gotten me through it”-- and the kindness of strangers for his survival for the past year. When he boarded the houseboat, it was only stocked with enough supplies for about three months.
“It’s all about the people,” he said. “The people have taken care of me. I would not be able to do this if it weren’t for the river people that have helped me all along the way.”
His trek has been filled with problems – with his houseboat motor, his faithful and adoring canine companion Sapphire, lack of fuel and the inevitable shortage of food.
In the case of his boat motor, a couple of mechanics where Phillips was docked bought the needed part and repaired it and when Sapphire drifted away from the houseboat during a stay in Memphis, Tenn., flyers posted around town led to an ad agency where she had gone.
All along the way, Phillips has crossed paths with good Samaritans. An easy-going, happy and outgoing man, people who’ve met his just seem to want to help.
“I haven’t gone hungry,” he said. “Everything that I’ve needed all along the way has been taken care of.”