MINNEAPOLIS - \Gabriele Grunewald, one of the country's top middle-distance runners, has died at her home in Minneapolis after inspiring many with her long and public fight against cancer. She was 32.
Her husband, Justin Grunewald, posted on Instagram about her death late Tuesday and confirmed it Wednesday in a text to The Associated Press.
“Definitions of the word ‘scar’ say it’s synonymous with ‘blemish’ and ‘flaw.’ We call BS. At @womenshealthmag we think the body’s ability to rebuild itself, and the marks left behind, are both badass and beautiful. No matter where they fall, or where they came from, scars are a testament to power and survival — something to wear with pride. We’ll let these warriors show you. Every scar tells a story. Here, five women share theirs.” — @kriscann for ‘The Strength In Our Scars’ piece feat. @allymisslove @paige_previvor @robynlawley @alyssa.exposito ❤️ . I have a love/hate relationship with my scars from my battles with cancer over the years. I love that they’ve often given me back my health or improved my prognosis, but I hate that they have to be there in the first place. After my first neck cancer surgery in 2009, I cringed at my reflection in the mirror. “Ugh,” I thought. "I am never going to look the same again.” The surgery damaged my facial nerve and left me with a permanently quirky smile. 😁 The radiation that followed left a small, permanent bald spot on the back of my head. 1.5 years later I got my second surgical scar from a thyroid cancer diagnosis. I was not ready to be a two-time cancer survivor at age 24, but I figured it out the best I could and got back to living life and chasing my running dreams on the track. Although I felt unlucky, I was happy to be alive. I wish my scar story ended right there, but it doesn’t. The 13-inch scar on my abdomen is from a life-extending surgery I desperately needed in 2016. Six weeks after competing in the US Olympic Trials, doctors removed half my liver and a large metastatic tumor, resulting in this scar. 👆 I’m not sure I’d be alive today without it. It was hard for me to not be able to run for months afterwards but I’ve been blessed to get in some racing and quite a few miles since then. I’m not exactly cancer-free, but I’m still here: fighting — and running. My scars represent survival. My scars teach me to embrace my 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. ❤️
Grunewald, who often went by "Gabe," was diagnosed with adenoid cystic carcinoma - a rare form of cancer in the saliva glands - in 2009 while running for the University of Minnesota. Following surgery and radiation therapy, she went on to finish second in the 1,500 meters at the 2010 NCAA championships.
She kept on running through three more bouts with the disease, forging a career as a professional athlete and U.S. champion while enduring surgeries, radiation treatments, chemotherapy and immunotherapy.
Earlier this month, Justin Grunewald wrote in an Instagram post that his wife was in grave condition and had been moved to intensive care. He wrote that when he told her she was dying, "she took a deep breath and yelled, 'NOT TODAY.'"
Gabriele Grunewald was then moved home and spent her final days in comfort care.
In his Instagram post announcing her death Tuesday, Justin Grunewald said: "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."
He also thanked those who sent messages to his wife in her final days.
"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."
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