Sports | June 13, 2019 12:15 pm

Olympic Hopeful Gabriele Grunewald Dies at 32

"My scars,"  she said, "teach me to embrace life"

Gabriele Grunewald
Gabriele Grunewald underwent a liver resection for metastatic liver cancer months before a race. (Craig F. Walker/ The Boston Globe via Getty)
Boston Globe via Getty Images

Gabriele Grunewald fought cancer until her very last lap.

The track star, who was battling a rare and incurable metastatic cancer known as adenoid cystic carcinoma, died on Tuesday at 32, leaving behind her husband, Justin Grunewald, “for whom she was everything,” The New York Times reported.

Grunewald had four separate bouts of cancer and ran through the procedures and chemotherapy treatments that accompanied each. She rocked an enormous, purple half-moon-shaped scar across her abdomen from when doctors removed a tumor from her liver in 2017 and ran with multiple lesions inside of her while vying for a spot on the 2020 American Olympic team.

“I’m a young adult with cancer,” she once told the Times. “I don’t always love talking about it. It’s not a made-for-TV movie. It’s real. It’s scary.”

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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

A post shared by Justin Grunewald (@justingrunewald1) on

Grunewald and her husband met while running track at University of Minnesota and discovered she first hand cancer with him by her side when she was a fifth-year senior in 2009. That same day, she ran a personal best of 4 minutes 22 seconds in the 1,500, known as the metric mile. Soon, Grunewald underwent her first bout of radiation after surgery and then just three months later ran even faster than before.

“It’s like I lost all excuses for not pushing myself to reach my fullest potential,” she said of her post-surgery success.

It wasn’t until 2016 that she developed the mass that would eventually claim her life but Grunewald remained in the public eye, sharing her story on social media and was the face of a call for greater treatment research and of her nonprofit, the Brave Like Gabe Foundation, which “raises money for research into rare cancers and encourages cancer patients to exercise,” according to the Times.

“My scars,”  she said, “teach me to embrace life.”

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