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The American professional middle-distance runner, Gabriele Grunewald, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer about 10 years ago. After a decade of making through, she lost the battle and died on Tuesday, 11 June 2019, at age 32.

Grunewald was studying at University of Minnesota when she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called adenoid cystic carcinoma (ACC). ACC is a form of malignant neoplasm, affecting about 1000 people per year, that arises within secretary glands, mostly the major and minor salivary glands of the head and neck. It might also effect trachea, lacrimal gland, breasts, skin and vulva. For Grunewald, it affected her salivary glands.

The runner found out the devastating news just a day before her race, however, this didn’t bring her spirits down. The next day, Grunewald proceeded to set a personal record in the 1500 meters race. Due to the unforeseen circumstances, she was granted an extra year of eligibility. After multiple rounds of chemotherapy and surgery, the aspiring runner returned stronger than ever and scored second place in the 1500 meters race at 2010 NCAA national championship.

Unfortunately, the hardships didn’t end here. A year later, Grunewald found out that her cancer had metastasized to her thyroid gland. A surgery in 2010 led to a complete removal of the gland. However, a complication in the surgery damaged a nerve that permanently affected her smile. Even this didn’t daunt her, and she turned pro, signing an endorsement deal with Brooks. In an interview with New York Times, she said, “It’s like I lost all excuses for not pushing myself to reach my fullest potential”.

Grunewald couldn’t qualify for the US Olympics in 2012, however, at a Diamond League Meet in Monaco, a year later, she managed to become the 12th fastest American woman runner. She won her first American Championship in 2014 with 9:23.15 in the 3000 meters race.

Despite the return of her cancer in 2016, she managed to qualify for the 1500 meters final at the US Olympic Trials. The malignant tumor was now spreading to the rest of her body and had reached her liver. Her husband, Justin Grunewald, noticed the mass near her stomach while hugging her after a race. She had another surgery to get half of her liver removed, leaving a long scar on her stomach.

Despite the challenges and the obstacles that came her way, Gabrielle became a beacon of hope for all the cancer survivors out there. She believed that her scars represented survival. In a Facebook post, she wrote, “My scars teach me to embrace by 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”. She had to undergo massive chemotherapy and complex surgeries, but these didn’t affect her will to survive.


Grunewald founded the Brave Like Gabe foundation to give hope to the people battling cancer. To give them a will to live and to accomplish their dreams. The foundation raised thousands of dollars and held races in her name as well.

View this post on Instagram

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

A post shared by gabriele anderson grunewald (@gigrunewald) on


After a decade long battle with the life-threatening disease, Gabriele Grunewald, lost her fight at the mere age of 32. Her conditioned worsened in April and she was moved to comfort care in her home, where she passed away in the company of her husband, Justin.


Her death was announced to the world in a heart wrenching post made by Justin on Instagram.

View this post on Instagram

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


Given her high spirits, she would’ve achieved a lot in the coming years.

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