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Inspiring runner Gabriele 'Gabe' Grunewald has died from cancer at age 32

TODAY logo TODAY 6/12/2019 Amy Eley and Scott Stump
Gabriele Grunewald et al. smiling for the camera: Justin Grunewald asked for people to send any final messages to his dying wife, runner Gabriele "Gabe" Grunewald. © @justingrunewald1/Instagram Justin Grunewald asked for people to send any final messages to his dying wife, runner Gabriele "Gabe" Grunewald.

Runner Gabriele "Gabe" Grunewald has died from cancer at age 32, her husband shared on Instagram Tuesday evening. 

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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

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"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," her husband, Justin Grunewald, wrote. "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."

Her passing came days after her husband shared that Gabe, who was first diagnosed with cancer in 2009, was in comfort care at their home in Minneapolis, Minnesota, after her health took a drastic turn.

"It breaks my heart to say but overnight Gabriele’s status worsened with worsening liver function causing confusion,'' he wrote. "Wanting to do her no harm we have made the difficult decision to move her to comfort cares this afternoon."

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*** update read whole post *** 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. 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. I wrote this to her a couple years ago below and wanted to share what she means to me. Dear Gabriele, 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. I know life is scary and I know we have won the lottery of uncertainty, and it's not fair, but I still choose our life of uncertainly and at times fear, over any alternative option I could think of. I have so much fun with you and have learned more from having you as my best friend and wife than I learned in the rest of my life combined. I know you have been given the heaviest of tasks in life. The task of being brave despite feeling enormous amounts of fear. The task of smiling when your throat wells up with pain and eyes want to fill with tears, but I don't think you were chosen by random chance, and again I know that's not fair but you are so amazing at being you and that's why I feel bravelikegabe is so special. Because there isn't a word in the dictionary for what you do or who you are. Brave flails in comparison to what you are to me and to so many people out there facing the simplest and silliest of struggles in day to day life. At the end of the day people won't remember the PRs run or the teams qualified for 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. I love you ❤️ #bravelikegabe #runningonhope

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Gabe was a distance runner studying at the University of Minnesota when she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in the salivary gland called adenoid cystic carcinoma (ACC). One year later, she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

She did not let cancer stop her running career, however, and she went on to finish in fourth place in the 1,500-meter race at the 2012 Olympic trials after going through treatments and surgery. She ran a personal best in the same race one year later and won the indoor 3,000-meter national title in 2014.

Unfortunately, the ACC returned in 2016. Doctors removed 50% of her liver in a surgery that left her with a scar across her abdomen, according to her website. Even still, she pushed to qualify for the 2020 Olympics.

In an Instagram post on May 4, she shared a picture of herself in a hospital bed with apologies that she would not be able to run in a 5K race for her Brave Like Gabe foundation, which raises awareness and funding to combat rare cancers.

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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. 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. . It’s not lost on me that maybe this is one of the most poignant ways to show just how critical research is. Cancer is nothing if not incredibly inconvenient and we need more options. I wish I didn’t have to show it in this way because there’s so many people I’d love to meet and catch up with tomorrow (including my grandma who I don’t see very often ❤️). . But I’m gonna be brave and fight these fevers and hopefully the procedure will help me out big time. 🙏 Prayers very much welcome. . Have a heck of a time out there and celebrate what you’ve helped support and accomplish through the research grant! So overwhelmed by the love and I can’t wait to hear the recap. ❤️ #bravelikegabe5k #bebrave #rarecancerresearch

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"It’s not lost on me that maybe this is one of the most poignant ways to show just how critical research is,'' she wrote. "Cancer is nothing if not incredibly inconvenient and we need more options. I wish I didn’t have to show it in this way because there’s so many people I’d love to meet and catch up with tomorrow."

That was her final post before passing away.

Her husband, who continued to share the final days of her life on Instagram, shared Tuesday afternoon a photo of the couple walking outside side by side.

"I'm holding her hands so tight and am so scared for the trail ahead," he wrote. "But I know she will always be by my and everyone's side helping us to be brave and remain hopeful on our journey when times get hard."


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