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Gabriele Grunewald Lost Battle with Cancer a Year Ago — Inside the Runner's Life and Death

Edduin Carvajal
Jun 12, 2020
12:30 P.M.

Middle-distance runner Gabriele Grunewald, the winner of the 3000-meter race of the 2014 USA Indoor Track and Field Championship, had a very successful career before dying of cancer.


Although Gabriele passed away when she was only 32 years old, she demonstrated the power of resiliency by living with her rare type of cancer without giving up on her dream of being a professional runner.

Her husband felt a lump in Gabriele’s side after hugging her.

Gabriele Grunewald on June 21, 2017 in Sacramento, California | Photo: Getty Images

Gabriele Grunewald on June 21, 2017 in Sacramento, California | Photo: Getty Images


Gabriele learned about her condition for the first time in 2009 when she was only 22 years old.

After getting a biopsy of a lump that she found under her left ear, doctors informed her that she had a rare type of cancer in her salivary gland called adenoid cystic carcinoma.


Talking to Cosmopolitan’s “I Am Beautiful,” Gabriele Grunewald explained that she received the phone call from her doctor informing her about the severity of the biopsy’s results while she was at a track meet at Arizona State University with her teammates.


The runner confessed that, although she had “a swirl of different thoughts,” she was convinced that she could go through it.


She then learned through a Google investigation that the prognosis was poor, to say the least, giving her about five years to live.

At that time, Gabriele was an outstanding runner at the University of Minnesota, so instead of giving up on everything in her life, she decided to spend as much time with her loved ones as possible and keep running.


As a result, she not only married distance runner Justin Grunewald but also won the USA indoor championship in the 3000 meters in 2014. Two years before, she missed qualifying for the Olympics by just one spot.


Gabriele’s journey, though, was filled with bumps and setbacks. Only one year after her adenoid cystic carcinoma diagnosis, she learned that she had thyroid cancer.


She pointed out that she was not prepared to be a two-time cancer survivor that quickly, but she started running as soon as she could. Then, in 2016, her husband felt a lump in Gabriele’s side after hugging her.

Although she was feeling fine, she got it tested. It turned out to be a large tumor on her liver, the result of the reoccurrence of her adenoid cystic carcinoma.

Doctors immediately removed the softball-sized tumor, leaving a 12-inch scar across her abdomen. Unfortunately, follow-up scans found that several smaller tumors reappeared on her liver.

Since traditional treatments (chemo and radiotherapy) were not effectively managing the growth and spread of her cancer, Gabriele Grunewald started getting alternative therapy with doctor Alan Ho, an oncologist at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.




For years, she kept her condition private. When she eventually opened up about it and created the non-profit organization Brave Like Gabe to raise money for cancer research, her inspirational story went viral. In the NGO’s website, she wrote:

“Being brave, for me, means not giving up on the things that make me feel alive.”


Sadly, on June 11, 2019, Gabriele Grunewald died at her Minneapolis home. Her husband later took to Instagram to announce her passing and share an emotional message. He wrote:

“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.”

Exactly one year after her passing, Justin uploaded another Instagram post saying how much he misses her and explaining everything she meant to him.

In the caption, written as a letter to Gabriele Grunewald, Justin pointed out that he was still feeling the “controllable and redirectable” pain of her loss, adding that he couldn’t wait for their encounters.

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