Gabriele Grunewald, a professional American middle-distance runner, died from complications of her cancer in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Tuesday, June 11, 2019.
According to her website, the 32-year-old lifelong Minnesotan, born and raised in Perham, was initially diagnosed with a rare salivary gland cancer, adenoid cystic carcinoma, in 2009, and thyroid cancer in 2010. She experienced recurrences of adenoid cystic carcinoma in 2016 and 2017.
Gabriele was determined to return to elite competition in 2018 and ultimately had her sights set on the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Gabriele Was Married to Justin Grunewald, Who Posted Updates During Gabriele’s Final Days
“Dear Gabriele,” Justin wrote on Facebook on June 9, 2019. “First, thank you. Thank you so much for showing me what it’s like to be and feel alive. It’s easy to pass through life day to day and punch a time card wishing away the hours.Currently although I don’t always show it, I cherish every second. Whether we are out running, binging on a new Netflix series, or just lying in bed being lazy. Nothing beats the feeling I get when I see your smiling face.”
“‘There are only two ways to live your life. One as though nothing is a miracle, the other as though everything is a miracle.’ @gigrunewald chose the latter,” Justin wrote on Facebook on June 10, 2019. “We got her home to our comfy couch and she is resting peacefully and breathing easy surrounded by her best friends and family.”
“Over the last few years, Gabriele knew she would not be on this Earth forever,” Justin wrote on the Brave Like Gabe Instagram on June 11, 2019. “Her main goal was to give future generations of people diagnosed with cancer more treatments and better treatments while remaining hopeful and brave.”
2. Gabriele Embraced Her Cancer Scars
“I have a love/hate relationship with my scars from my battles with cancer over the years,” she wrote on Instagram. “I love that they’ve often given me back my health or improved my prognosis, but I hate that they have to be there in the first place.”
Gabriele embraced her scars, of which she has four. Her first scar came in 2009, after her initial surgery for neck cancer, which damaged a facial nerve and left her with a permanently quirky smile. Subsequently, the radiation that followed gave her with a permanent bald spot on the back of her head.
Gabriele got her second surgical scar from thyroid cancer surgery. Then, in 2016, she got another mark. Six weeks after competing in the US Olympic Trials, doctors removed half of her liver and a large metastatic tumor, resulting in a 13-inch scar on her abdomen after a life-extending surgery.
“My scars represent survival,” she continued in the post. “My scars teach me to embrace my body and honor its strength. My scars are a physical manifestation of what often feels like an invisible disease. My scars tell my life’s story, and I’m pretty glad it’s not over yet.”
3. Gabriele Started a Foundation in 2018 to Give Back to Those Who Have Supported Her
“Gabe doesn’t want cancer survivors, or anyone else, to give up on all of their dreams when life gets hard (We’ve learned they sometimes just have to be adjusted.),” states the Brave Like Gabe Foundation in its initial post on Instagram. “And Gabe wants rare cancers patients and survivors to feel more hopeful than she did when she was diagnosed. That’s why our mission is to support rare cancer research and empower ALL cancer survivors through physical activity.
Gabriele is the founder of Brave Like Gabe, which she started in 2018. The foundation’s goal is to raise awareness for the diseases that have wreaked havoc on Gabriele’s life, research funding disparities, and other challenges that prevent these types of cancers from having effective treatment options. Through fundraising efforts, Brave Like Gabe will support research and accelerate treatments for rare cancer patients.
Brave Like Gabe has partnered with Chip and Joanna Gaines of the HGTV show Fixer Upper and the owners of Magnolia Homes in Waco, Texas. The pair has helped raise $2 million for their #ChipInChallenge for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. They gave a matching gift to Brave Like Gabe to fight against cancer.
“I would love to live in a world where rare cancer patients have more treatment options and ultimately, cures,” Gabriele writes on the Brave Like Gabe website. “And if I can’t live in that world, I want to help it become a possibility for future patients.”
The foundation encourages other rare cancer patients to share their stories too. Whether the person is a rare cancer patient or a rare cancer survivor taking on a new fitness endeavor, she encourages them to use the hashtag #MyBraveStory and create a new one with their name, #BraveLikeYourNameHere.
4. Gabriele Shared Her Experience With Cancer On Social Media
On April 10, 2019, she posted a timeline. That day marked 10 years of cancer for Grunewald. She was first diagnosed with Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma in 2009.
Gabriele beagn documenting her journey on Instagram in 2012. She shared over 500 posts and connected with over 85,000 followers since then.
5. Gabriele’s Last Social Media Updates Were Posted on May 4, 2019
“Gonna need you guys to send me some extra #Brave vibes tonight as I am so, so very bummed that I won’t be able to make it to the @bravelikegabe 5k tomorrow,” she wrote on Instagram. “Because I am in the hospital with an infection and need a procedure done bright & early tomorrow. Literally the worst timing ever but I’m working with an all-star crew of friends, family, sponsors, and the ACCRF to make sure it’s a great race in St. Paul.”