Man chooses to live his last days on the Mississippi River

July 22, 2018 GMT

NATCHEZ, Miss. (AP) — After learning he had only three months to live, Wisconsin-native Kelly Phillips took a leap of faith into the Mississippi River, literally.

Kelly said he was diagnosed with sinus cancer more than two years ago and in early 2016 decided to spend his remaining days living in a houseboat and floating down the Mississippi River. After undergoing radiation therapy and chemotherapy, Phillips developed an ulcer in his stomach that exploded, he said. He woke up 21 days later in hospice and was told he had three months to live.


“I just woke up in hosipce and decided, ‘What the heck, let’s do this,’” Phillips said. “There is really no reasoning behind the decision, except for it just coming to me. Might as well do it. I don’t have any other plans.”

Phillips got a houseboat and began his journey down the Mississippi River in Madison, Wisconsin, on March 15, 2017, and has been floating down the river ever since.


Throughout his journey on the Mississippi, Phillips said he believes he has encountered God’s presence countless times. And although Phillips said he believed 100-percent in God before his adventure, the trip has strengthened his faith in God even more.

One of the times Phillips said God has helped him along the way was when his travel buddy, Sapphire, a 4-year-old dog, went missing.

In late May, Phillips and Sapphire were docked on the Memphis riverfront for a few days. Then one day while he was working on his houseboat, Sapphire decided to take a walk on her own.

“All of the sudden, she went missing,” Phillips said.

Sapphire was later found blocks away at the Archer Malmo agency on Front Street in Memphis.

“It can only have been God,” Phillips said. “There is no explanation about it. That is one of the many times He has taken care of me.”

Although Phillips is dealing with some engine troubles on his houseboat, he said the situation isn’t bothering him because nothing bothers anymore. Phillips said he still has two motors on the front of his boat that help him get around and that he will only be in trouble if he has to go up river — which is not his plan right now.

Throughout his trip, Phillips said floating down river has restored his faith in humanity. After the people from the agency who found Sapphire in Memphis reunited the two, the office decided buy him a new generator and cell phone.

“It’s been wonderful,” Phillips said.


Phillips said he is appreciative of everyone who has helped along the way thus far, but he is just happy to have met them and looks forward to meeting more people.

“I want to keep meeting people,” Phillips said. “Everyone has been great to me. Asking about my story. It’s inspiring and worth telling. Yet I’m just happy to meet people. It’s been one hell of a ride so far.”


Information from: The Natchez Democrat,