Man who saved 150-year-old church facing another fight

Land 10K Stories: Man who restored church faces new fight

MONTGOMERY, Minn. - A cancer patient who inspired millions of TV and online viewers with his restoration of an abandoned 150-year-old church, is now facing his toughest fight.

Greg Thomas recently learned his cancer - which had been in remission - has returned, this time without good treatment options.

Still, Thomas remains upbeat. "This hasn't weakened me at all," he says. "It's strengthened me."

Thomas was first diagnosed seven years ago with stage 4 head and neck cancer.  During his treatment, he started doing fix-up work at a decaying wooden church where he'd stop on his walks to pray.

Though Thomas' cancer treatments claimed his teeth and forced him to eat from a feeding tube, he poured his heart into the church renovation.

He considered it a miracle, when his cancer went away.

"This is my way of saying thank you," Thomas told KARE 11 in 2012 as he continued to work on the church.  The story went viral and was viewed around the world.

Today the church, built by Czech settlers, is painted in a fresh coat of white, with a new roof and restored interior.

But last fall Thomas felt a lump on his throat.  "It was the same cancer I had before," he says, "but now it's in my voice box and has metastasized to the lymph nodes in my neck."

Thomas says he was told by his doctor that the previous course of treatment is no longer an option.  Surgery is an option, but Thomas was told it would be disfiguring and have a limited chance of success.

He has decided to forego treatment.

"Whatever God's decision is, I'm okay with that," Thomas says.

Thomas' doctor told him the cancer is fast moving, but he hopes to still realize his goal of preaching in the church he restored.  Thomas is now in the first year of a two-year program at New Day Church in New Prague aimed at becoming a pastor.

"I firmly believe he's not done with me yet," Thomas says.

Thomas continues to work on the church.  He next hopes to find the money to replace the church's windows and run electrical power to the 150-year-old structure.  A crowd funding campaign has been started to help Thomas complete the project.

Despite the grim diagnosis, he remains optimistic.

"If he takes me home, he takes me home," says Thomas.  "I'm a winner either way."


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