Professional distance runner, Gabriele “Gabe” Grunewald passed away at the age of 32 after a decade-long battle with cancer.
Gabe inspired thousands and garnered many followers due to her inspiring story and battle with cancer.
Grunewald passed away Minneapolis, Minnesota on Tuesday, June 11, 2019. She was a lifelong Minnesotan, born and raised in Perham, and was initially diagnosed with a rare salivary gland cancer, adenoid cystic carcinoma, in 2009. She experienced reoccurrences of the disease in 2016 and 2017.
Grunewald’s husband, Justin Grunewald, called his wife his hero and his best friend. “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,” Grunewald wrote in a tribute to his wife on Instagram.
Here’s what you need to know about Justin Grunewald:
1. Justin Announced His Wife’s Passing on Instagram
In a long and heartbreaking post, Justin Grunewald announced the passing of his wife on his Instagram page. Grunewald, who developed a following on Instagram, was deemed as Justin’s “hero” and “inspiration” in the post.
“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,” the post said inspiring others to keep on fighting the battle that is cancer and cancer treatment.
Grunewald was a fighter and truly loved the sport she spent most of her life competing in, as her last Instagram post was an apology to her fans for missing a 5k that was created in her honor to help fight cancer.
“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 — because I am in the hospital with an infection and need a procedure done bright & early in the AM,” her post said.
It was made on May 4.
2. On June 2, Justin Informed His Wife That She Was Dying
In an Instagram post on June 2, Justin Grunewald told the world that he told his wife that she was dying. Gabe didn’t accept that statement and kept on fighting.
“Shortly after I told her she was dying she took a deep breath and yelled ‘NOT TODAY,'” Justin Grunewald said of his wife on June 2.
Medical professionals informed Justin that his wife’s pH and lactate levels were “incompatible with life.”
“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,” Grunewald said in his post. “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.”
Shortly after Justin told his wife that she was dying, he and her family went to bed. What he woke up to was deemed as “divine intervention” and a “miracle.”
“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,” Justin posted to Instagram. “It can only be explained as divine intervention or miracle. Today was the best day of my life.”
3. On June 4, Gabe Told Her Husband She ‘Was Ready to Go to Heaven’
In an Instagram post made just days after the couple’s “miracle” trip to the ICU, Justin Grunewald said his wife told him she “was ready to go to heaven.”
“After narrowly escaping the ICU we found ourselves being rushed back the evening of 6/4 due to septic shock,” Grunewald posted. “Prior to the transfer @gigrunewald [Gabe Grunewald] told me she was ready to go to heaven. This time it was me asking her to wait a bit longer and she agreed.”
After a number of procedures, Grunewald found herself stabilizing only to have her respiratory condition deteriorate.
Grunewald, her family and her husband decided the next step is to try a new drug called ATRA (All-trans retinoic acid). According to Justin’s post, she is the first person to try the drug.
“We are accepting all prayers that ATRA is another miracle for us. We have already had our share but would love one more!,” Justin’s wrote at the end of his post. “She is approaching this as pictured above, just like another interval on the track or bike ride during a tempo run to support me.”
4. In Gabe’s Final Days Justin Shared a Letter to the Public Highlighting His Wife’s Courage
In one of Justin’s final posts before announcing his wife’s death, he shared a letter he wrote to her years prior.
“Dear Gabriele, First, thank you. Thank you so much for showing me what it’s like to be and feel alive,” the letter began. “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.”
Justin prefaced the letter by telling his followers that Gabe is on her final days.
“It breaks my heart to say but overnight Gabriele’s status worsened with worsening liver function causing confusion. Wanting to do her no harm we have made the difficult decision to move her to comfort cares this afternoon,” Justin wrote. “I wanted to let you all know while she is still alive so you can send her one last message here or on her wall or on her phone before she heads up to heaven.”
5. Justin Announced the Details of Gabe’s Funeral on Instagram
In Justin Grunewald’s latest post to Instagram, he announced the details of his wife’s visitation, funeral and Gabe’s celebration of life.
The funeral will take place at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis, Minnesota on June 17 at noon. Followed by a procession to Hillside Cemetery Washburn-Mcreavy Hillside Chapel in Minneapolis.
Grunewald also announced a celebration of life for Gabe at Insight Brewery.