Pro Runners Show Love to Gabriele Grunewald Before She "Heads Up to Heaven" Amidst Cancer Battle
Grunewald passed away at 32 years old after a decade-long cancer battle.
Gabriele "Gabe" Grunewald spent the past decade fighting cancer. On Tuesday, her husband Justin shared that she passed away in the comfort of their home.
"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," Justin wrote in an Instagram post. "[Gabe] 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."
Earlier in the week, Justin had announced that his wife was in hospice care after her health had taken a turn for the worse. "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," he wrote on Instagram.
It seems that Gabe's condition worsened unexpectedly. Back in May, she shared on Instagram that she was hospitalized with an infection and would need to have "a procedure done." At the time, her health had prevented her from attending a Brave Like Gabe 5K being held in her honor.
Then, on Tuesday, Gabe's husband shared the heartbreaking news that she had passed away.
"At the end of the day people won't remember the PRs run or the teams qualified for," he wrote in one of his posts, "but they will remember that hard period in their life where they were losing hope but they found inspiration in a young lady who refuses to give up."
Runners from across the world have come forward to share their love for Gabe. Many are using the hashtag #BraveLikeGabe to pay their respects.
"Thinking of you both, wishing you peace and comfort," Boston Marathon winner Des Linden wrote on one of Justin's Instagram posts. "[Gabe], thank you for being you. You both have showed so many how to appreciate every day and live life to the fullest, not to take a moment for granted, how to be brave in the face of adversity, and most importantly (to me) how to be genuinely good humans in a world that can, at times, feel so cruel. Please know that your spirit and legacy will continue to live on and inspire." (Related: Running Helped Me Accept That I Had Breast Cancer)
Olympic runner Molly Huddle also dedicated an Instagram post to Gabe, writing: "You are a warrior woman and you've touched countless hearts. It's an honor to share not just the running world but this time on the globe with you. I salute you with every spiked stride on the track."
Shortly after learning Gabe was in hospice care, two-time Olympian, Kara Goucher took to Twitter to say: "I love you so much [Gabe]. Thank you for showing me what bravery looks like. Always love your way. #bravelikegabe."
Another fan sending his love is former Fixer Upper star, Chip Gaines, whom Gabe trained to run his first half marathon. "We love you," he wrote on Twitter, "You changed us forever, and til we meet again we promise to be #BraveLikeGabe."
Gaines also honored Gabe's memory by announcing that he's matching any donations that are made to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital and Gabe's foundation, Brave Like Gabe, by midnight on Wednesday.
For those who might not know Gabe, the 32-year-old athlete was a distance runner at the University of Minnesota in 2009 when she was first diagnosed with adenoid cystic carcinoma (ACC), a rare form of cancer in the salivary gland. A year later, she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
Despite treatments and surgeries, Gabe continued running and finished fourth in the 1,500-meter race at the 2012 Olympic trials. She ran a personal best in the same race a year later. In 2014, she won the indoor 3,000-meter national title and continued to run professionally until her ACC returned in 2016. At the time, doctors had found a large tumor that led to the removal of 50 percent of her liver, leaving her with a large scar on her abdomen that she's since proudly displayed during some of her races.
Throughout Gabe's heartbreaking journey, one thing stayed constant: her love of running. "There isn't a time when I feel more strong, healthy, and alive than when I run," she previously told us. "And that's what's helped me stay positive and continue to set goals regardless of all the fears I have in my life. For anyone in my shoes, whether you're fighting cancer or another illness or even just going through a tough time in your life, hold on to the things you're passionate about. For me, it's running. For you, it might be something else. But really cherishing those passions is what makes us feel alive—and that's always worth fighting for."