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Ride of a lifetime:Cancer news prompts Boatwright to begin dream trip

By By Sherry Digmon
Advance Staff Writer
At some time in your life, you may have been part of a conversation that began, "If the doctors told you that you had only a certain amount of time left to live, what would you do?"
Thomas Boatwright has been in on that conversation. Only his wasn't just a scenario. It's the real thing.
The doctors said the cancer has spread. He has a couple of years … maybe.
What would you do?
Well, Boatwright plans to do at least one thing that he has always wanted to do.
Saturday at 6 a.m., he will set off on the ride of his life.
Boatwright and four friends will ride Harley Davidsons from Spanish Fort hill to Canada, traveling Highway 31 all the way. Eddie Osborne, Ronnie Peacock, Jimmy Franklin and Murray Bryars will ride with Boatwright.
He figures it will take about five days to get to the Canadian border.
They've made plans in case Boatwright can't complete the trip. His friends know how they'll get him home
Boatwright was diagnosed in 1996 with colon rectal cancer. Fortunately, it was detected early. He had one episode of bleeding on a Thursday. The next day he saw a doctor and was referred to a surgeon whom he saw the following Monday. Friday of that week, he had surgery.
They stress how important early detection is.
Following the biopsy, Boatwright was treated with radiation and chemotherapy.
Everything looked good. He was trying to get over chemotherapy and had gone back to work. Then cancer spread to his liver.
Mrs. Boatwright said the doctor pretty much threw his hands up. He didn't know what else to do.
In late 1996, a spot showed up on Boatwright's right lung, and their search began for a doctor who would treat him.
They went to Houston, Atlanta and Birmingham. In Birmingham, they found a doctor who operates on the liver. He told the Boatwrights that if a person has 20 percent of a good liver, it will grow back.
Boatwright began two rounds of chemo before surgery. In the hospital for a week. Home for three weeks. In the hospital and back home.
The surgeon took out 60 percent of Boatwright's liver.
Then he began two more rounds of chemo in the hospital and back home.
But it bought him some time.
In November last year, the spot on his lung started growing. In January, surgeons removed part of his lung.
Before the surgery, Mrs. Boatwright asked the doctors to test her husband for any cancer anywhere else in his body – his brain, his blood, his bones.
They found only the spot in his right lung and cut it out.
But shortly after the surgery, doctors found cancer in the lining of his chest wall, in his diaphragm and in his lymphatic system.
The Boatwrights asked what they could do. There was nothing.
They started calling cancer centers. At one center, the doctor said Boatwright had been through more in the past four years than he would ever have asked a patient to go through. But Boatwright was still alive.
In February, just three months ago, the doctor said maybe two years.
Now, the cancer seems to be at a standstill.
They rely on family support and faith to help them.
The trip to Canada is something Boatwright wants to accomplish, but there are two other things he wants to see happen.
Their daughter Cassie is a junior at the Alabama School of Mathematics and Science in Mobile. Their son Toby is in a minimum security prison in Beaumont, Texas, sentenced in November 1999 to 16 years and 8 months for a first time, non-violent drug offense. The family is trying to get the sentence reduced or at least get Toby transferred to a facility closer to home. They can't understand why he was sent to Texas when similar facilities are located in Marianna, Fla., Ft. Walton and Montgomery.
For now, he's getting ready for his dream trip. Riding his Harley. Seeing the country side. Being with good friends. Enjoying life.
Dianne Boatwright wrote the following entitled He Dreams.
He dreams of his wonderful children. There are 3.
He dreams of his wife of 31 years. They are 2.
He dreams of his merciful God. For He is the 1."