In this May 8, 2017 file photo, Gabriele "Gabe" Grunewald trains at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn.

Carlos Gonzalez/Star Tribune via AP

Grunewald, runner with cancer who inspired many, dies at 32

June 12, 2019 - 10:59 am
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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Gabriele Grunewald, one of the country's top middle-distance runners, has died at her home in Minneapolis after inspiring many with her long and public fight against cancer. She was 32.

Her husband, Justin Grunewald, posted on Instagram about her death late Tuesday and confirmed it Wednesday in a text to The Associated Press.

Grunewald, who often went by "Gabe," was diagnosed with adenoid cystic carcinoma — a rare form of cancer in the saliva glands — in 2009 while running for the University of Minnesota. Following surgery and radiation therapy, she went on to finish second in the 1,500 meters at the 2010 NCAA championships.

She kept on running through three more bouts with the disease, forging a career as a professional athlete and U.S. champion while enduring surgeries, radiation treatments, chemotherapy and immunotherapy.

Earlier this month, Justin Grunewald wrote in an Instagram post that his wife was in grave condition and had been moved to intensive care. He wrote that when he told her she was dying, "she took a deep breath and yelled, 'NOT TODAY.'"

***Read whole post*** Yesterday was the worst day of my life. I woke up next to my wife to a group of alarmed nurses rushing us to the ICU. Her morning labs had come back and “they did not look good.” @gigrunewald seemed a little confused but otherwise fine. Upon arriving to the ICU I reviewed her labs with her team of internist and critical care doctor and immediately ran out of the hospital crying. For medical professionals her lactate was 23 and pH was 6.9, values incompatible with life. They started fluid resuscitation, placed a PICC line gave two units of blood and her numbers had worsened with a lactate of 26. She was relatively unaware and at peace. I made the hardest decision of my life with her family and brother to move her to comfort care. I actually got the opportunity to say goodbye to her alone and inform her she was dying, at that time she did not seem to be comprehending much. Shortly after I told her she was dying she took a deep breath and yelled “NOT TODAY.” We went to bed shortly after I felt for her radial pulse all night on her arm with her mother and @abigailande sleeping on her other side. At around 8am when the critical care doctor came in the room Gabe woke me up because she wanted to order breakfast. After stopping cares most of her labs had normalized on their own and she is now eating a @shakeshack burger out of the ICU. Talking to all my doctor colleagues they have never seen another patient survive similar circumstances. It can only be explained as divine intervention or miracle. Today was the best day of my life. Thank you sooo much for the prayers. Also again thanks to the best friend group in the world for literally getting here from multiple states within 12 hours and to my bro @mattg_nearthesea for making the fastest trip ever from Cayman to MN! #bravelikegabe #runningonhope #nottoday

A post shared by Justin Grunewald (@justingrunewald1) on

Gabriele Grunewald was then moved home and spent her final days in comfort care.

In his Instagram post announcing her death Tuesday, Justin Grunewald said: "I always felt like the Robin to your Batman and I know I will never be able to fill this gaping hole in my heart or fill the shoes you have left behind. Your family loves you dearly as do your friends."

At 7:52 I said “I can’t wait until I get to see you again” to my hero, my best friend, my inspiration, my wife. @gigrunewald I always felt like the Robin to your Batman and I know I will never be able to fill this gaping hole in my heart or fill the shoes you have left behind. Your family loves you dearly as do your friends. When @chipgaines made the final push in his #chipinchallenge I could feel your happiness building and could also see that this made you ready to head up to heaven. Chip thanks for helping her to go up so peacefully with no suffering. To everyone else from all ends of the earth, Gabriele heard your messages and was so deeply moved. She wants you to stay brave and keep all the hope in the world. Thanks for helping keep her brave in her time of need ------ #keeprunningonhope #bravelikegabe -- @pixelcrave -- @kohjiro_kinno

A post shared by Justin Grunewald (@justingrunewald1) on

He also thanked those who sent messages to his wife in her final days.

"To everyone else from all ends of the earth, Gabriele heard your messages and was so deeply moved. She wants you to stay brave and keep all the hope in the world. Thanks for helping keep her brave in her time of need."

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