As a self-employed truck driver Richard Boyd, 51, was a strong, burly man as all his big muscles could attest.
He owned his own truck, hauling heavy equipment and household items for companies such as Pier 1, loading and unloading his haul by himself. For 20 years, off and on, he worked as truck driver.
In his own words, he did what he wanted and bought what he wanted.
At 35 he accepted Jesus Christ into his life. And at the Lord’s nudging, he gave up smoking and drinking.
The now saved trucker began spreading the word of God to others while driving his truck. He preached over the CB radio for 14 years and became known by his handle, Redeemed.
Some people received it while others balked.
In 2005, he needed that message perhaps more than anyone else.
It all started with a truck.
Boyd had just purchased a brand new tractor-trailer for work. However, it proved to be a piece of junk.
He tried to return it to the dealership for another one, but they refused. While trying to fix it, he ended up losing work.
“So, I ended up getting financially in a bind, and I had to drop my insurance,” he said.
Because he was self-employed, his insurance cost him about $800 a month. He had other more pressing bills, such as his mortgage, to pay.
“And right after I dropped my insurance, I found out I had cancer,” he said.
In November 2005, he was diagnosed with oral cancer, after noticing a knot under his tongue and later an ulcer on the side of his tongue.
The cancerous knot was removed and later the ulcer proved to be malignant. He underwent radiation, but that didn’t work and so he had some operations done, including having three-fourths of his tongue removed. The surgeries did not get all the cancer, either. Not only did it remain, it spread to the inside of his jaw.
Another surgeon tried to cut out the inside jaw, thinking that would get all of the cancer. After removing the jaw, she took one of his chest muscles and placed it inside his mouth to rebuild the jaw. However, the radiation had so weakened the tissues of his jaw, the muscle could not stay in place.
It dropped to his shoulder where it remains today. Surgeons are still trying to affix the muscle to the side of his mouth, hoping that it will at some point remain in place once the tissues have strengthened.
Life before cancer
The son of well-known John Boyd who once owned the Badcock shopping center and a gas station, many in the community may remember Boyd pumping gas as a boy.
He started smoking at age 14 and continued for 21 years. His vices didn’t stop there. He admits he drank, smoked cigars and chewed tobacco.
“I tried many years to quit,” he said.
Yet, it wasn’t until he accepted Christ into his life in 1991 that he finally stopped.
“Only by His power—I couldn’t do it,” he said.
The elephant in the room is obvious: Does he blame himself for the cancer?
“A little bit,” Boyd acknowledged.
However, a month after quitting smoking, he was placed in the hospital for high cholesterol and while there, he had his lungs checked. The doctor found them to be in good shape.
Yet, the affects of smoking are not limited to the lungs, the most obvious place to be impacted. In Boyd’s case, he was blindsided by the disease attacking a less common part of the body.
The Centers for Disease Control report that oral cancer only accounts for 2-4 percent of all diagnosed cancers each year in this country. Yet the survival rates are among the lowest of all major cancers.
The battle continues
After his surgery and cancer treatments, Boyd was released from the hospital and returned home.
He was now faced with speech therapy and two years of having to rely upon a feeding tube.
In addition, his doctor thought that with the removal of the inside of his jaw the cancer had finally been conquered. Wrong. Five days after his last surgery the pathology report showed that the cancer had now reached his blood vessels.
Boyd tried to eat only to have some food caught in the flap on the inside of his jaw. This created an infection that sent him back to the hospital.
Last week his feeding tube loosened from his stomach. Boyd had minor surgery to have it reattached.
The only thing doctors can do now is administer pellet-sized chemotherapy to help reduce his pain.
“Only God can heal him now,” said his wife Marsha Boyd.
On June 8, the Boyds, their six children and two granddaughters will go see the Grand Canyon.
As a little boy, Boyd visited the site and was struck by its beauty. He’s always loved that part of the country, he said, and he’s always wanted his children to experience it.
“I figure this is my last time with my children, he said. “They’ve been on an emotional rollercoaster.”
Just when they think he’s in the clear he faces yet another setback.
And his wife has been on the front lines of the battle with him.
“It’s put a lot of stress on her,” he said.
She explains all his procedures and treatments easily. Ask him a question about his medical treatments and it’s not unlikely for him to look in his wife’s direction for her to answer.
“She takes care of everybody else, but herself,” Boyd said.
While fighting back tears, she explained how she has been coping with everything.
“Some days I cry all day, some days I do all right. Some days I feel like I’m having a nervous breakdown,” she said.
She had a real bad day last week when she discovered that all her efforts to get her husband on Medicare and take care of other things had been for nothing. All her paperwork had been lost, so everything had to be re-submitted.
“It’s very difficult — the stress is really strong on me,” she admitted.
Their youngest daughter, who is only 12 years old, has her good and bad days, too.
However, Marsha said that her school has been very supportive. The counselors there have made themselves available to her anytime she needs them.
Boyd’s five siblings have all been very supportive. For a year, they paid their brother’s bills while he was sick.
“They help me out a lot,” he said.
And his wife noted that they helped her take him back and forth to the doctors so that she could keep working as an at-home childcare provider.
Despite the turmoil his family is facing, Boyd is at peace.
“Death is just a doorway,” he said, sitting on his couch with a solemn look that breaks into a smile or laugh easily.
Each time he underwent surgery he said he recited the Lord’s last words on the cross: “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”
Nonetheless, his peace is not to be confused with quitting. He made it clear that he will continue his fight against the cancer.
“I’m going to believe that God wants me healed,” Boyd said, adding that he knows the Lord can heal.
He prayed over his daughter when she suffered from severe stomach problems and she was healed. He prayed, as well, for his dad when he was in the hospital once and doctors had given up on him. He, too, was healed.
Still, if he isn’t healed, he is OK with that, too.
Donations may be made at any Coastal Bank to the Richard Boyd Fund. Supplies of BOOST are also greatly appreciated. Those interested may call 1-800-247-7893 or visit www.BOOST.com to get coupons for the Boyds.