Former Gopher and professional runner Gabriele "Gabe" Grunewald has died after a decade-long battle with cancer.
The 32-year-old Minnesotan, who graduated from Perham High School in 2004, was placed in end of life care on Sunday due to worsening liver function. Her husband, Justin Grunewald, made her condition public so supporters could send one last message to her "before she heads up to heaven."
He announced her death on Tuesday evening, writing: "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.
"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."
Justin Grunewald had written Monday afternoon that Gabe was "resting peacefully and breathing easy" at home, enjoying renovations "Fixer Upper" stars Chip and Joanna Gaines recently made to their condo. Gabe was Chip's running coach.
Through her non-profit Brave Like Gabe – a foundation that supports rare cancer research – Grunewald explained why she continued running and training throughout multiple cancer diagnosis.
"It hasn’t always been easy, but it has always been the right decision for me," she's quoted as saying. "From the very first day I was told I had cancer in 2009, I knew running would be a big part of my journey back to health. It has truly been my refuge; when everything else seems to be going wrong and the outcomes are far beyond my control, I can find perspective and hope on the run. I believe that continuing to pursue my goals on the track has helped me to carry on with purpose in my life in the face of an uncertain future."
As a 22-year-old in April 2009, she was diagnosed with adenoid cystic carcinoma. In October 2010, doctors found papillary thyroid cancer that she battled and defeated in December 2011.
In 2012, Grunewald finished one place shy of qualifying for the 2012 London Olympics and she was determined to compete for a spot in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Cancer struck again in July 2016 with doctors confirming the metastatic recurrence of adenoid cystic carcinoma. She underwent surgery to remove the tumor and about half of her liver. Less than a year later, in March 2017, cancer was again found on her liver.
Through it all, she continued to run and train because running gave her a "mental boost" that she wished she could "share with every cancer survivor."
"Being brave, for me, means not giving up on the things that make me feel alive," she said.