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.
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.”