Gabriele Grunewald has died after a decade-long cancer fight, one in which she continued a running career as an example of perseverance. She was 32 years old.
“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,” was posted on husband Justin Grunewald‘s Instagram. “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.
“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.”
USA Track and Field confirmed Grunewald’s passing.
Grunewald “embodied true determination, dedication and commitment in every facet of her life. She will be remembered as one of the bravest athletes we knew,” USATF said in a statement.
Grunewald, first diagnosed in 2009 with adenoid cystic carcinoma, a rare form of cancer in her salivary gland, had spent recent days in comfort care. Her husband asked those on social media on Sunday to send her a last message.
“To everyone else from all ends of the earth, Gabriele heard your messages and was so deeply moved,” was posted on his Instagram. “She wants you to stay brave and keep all the hope in the world.”
Grunewald last raced at the 2017 USATF Outdoor Championships as a four-time cancer survivor. A year after her first diagnosis, cancer was found in her thyroid and she had that removed, along with receiving radioactive iodine treatment.
Then, for the next several seasons, she was symptom-free and almost made the 2012 Olympic team, finishing fourth in the 1500m at trials. She won the U.S. indoor 3000m title in 2014.
In August 2016, a liver tumor was found, confirming a metastatic recurrence of adenoid cystic carcinoma. It was believed she was cancer-free after the surgery, but a March 2017 follow-up scanned showed small tumors in her liver.
She raced between chemotherapy sessions in the 2017 season.
“I’m trying to be the best example that I can be of somebody who’s trying to persevere through something difficult,” Grunewald said after her last race two years ago.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.