U.S. runner dies days after husband shares heartbreaking goodbye letter

Lifestyle

Just days after Justin Grunewald shared a personal goodbye letter to his wife battling cancer, he also had to say goodbye permanently.

Gabriele Grunewald, an elite U.S. runner and Olympic hopeful, died in Minneapolis on Tuesday at the age of 32. 

She had been documenting her rare salivary gland cancer battle on social media, gaining thousands of followers along the way.

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According to People magazine, the runner was first diagnosed in 2009 and in the next year, discovered she also had thyroid cancer. She continued to run through her surgeries, winning titles and placing fourth in the 2012 USA Olympic trials.

“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,” her husband Justin Grunewald wrote on his Instagram page the day she died.

On Monday, Justin Grunewald shared a goodbye letter to his wife after her condition got worse.

“It breaks my heart to say but overnight Gabriele’s status worsened with worsening liver function causing confusion. Wanting to do her no harm we have made the difficult decision to move her to comfort cares this afternoon.”

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He originally wrote the letter years ago, but wanted to share it again with her followers.

View this post on Instagram

*** update read whole post *** It breaks my heart to say but overnight Gabriele’s status worsened with worsening liver function causing confusion. Wanting to do her no harm we have made the difficult decision to move her to comfort cares this afternoon. I wanted to let you all know while she is still alive so you can send her one last message here or on her wall or on her phone before she heads up to heaven. I wrote this to her a couple years ago below and wanted to share what she means to me. Dear Gabriele, First, thank you. Thank you so much for showing me what it’s like to be and feel alive. It’s easy to pass through life day to day and punch a time card wishing away the hours. Currently although I don’t always show it, I cherish every second. Whether we are out running, binging on a new Netflix series, or just lying in bed being lazy. Nothing beats the feeling I get when I see your smiling face. I know life is scary and I know we have won the lottery of uncertainty, and it’s not fair, but I still choose our life of uncertainly and at times fear, over any alternative option I could think of. I have so much fun with you and have learned more from having you as my best friend and wife than I learned in the rest of my life combined. I know you have been given the heaviest of tasks in life. The task of being brave despite feeling enormous amounts of fear. The task of smiling when your throat wells up with pain and eyes want to fill with tears, but I don’t think you were chosen by random chance, and again I know that’s not fair but you are so amazing at being you and that’s why I feel bravelikegabe is so special. Because there isn’t a word in the dictionary for what you do or who you are. Brave flails in comparison to what you are to me and to so many people out there facing the simplest and silliest of struggles in day to day life. At the end of the day people won’t remember the PRs run or the teams qualified for but they will remember that hard period in their life where they were losing hope but they found inspiration in a young lady who refuses to give up. I love you ❤️ #bravelikegabe #runningonhope

A post shared by Justin Grunewald (@justingrunewald1) on

“Thank you so much for showing me what it’s like to be and feel alive. It’s easy to pass through life day to day and punch a time card wishing away the hours. Currently although I don’t always show it, I cherish every second. Whether we are out running, binging on a new Netflix series, or just lying in bed being lazy. Nothing beats the feeling I get when I see your smiling face,” he wrote on his Instagram page.

“I know life is scary and I know we have won the lottery of uncertainty, and it’s not fair, but I still choose our life of uncertainly and at times fear, over any alternative option I could think of.

“I have so much fun with you and have learned more from having you as my best friend and wife than I learned in the rest of my life combined.”

“I know you have been given the heaviest of tasks in life,” he continued. “The task of being brave despite feeling enormous amounts of fear.”

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The New York Times added that over time, Gabriele or “Gabe” began to be known for her scars.

“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,” she wrote on Instagram in January.

“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.”

View this post on Instagram

“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. ❤️

A post shared by gabriele anderson grunewald (@gigrunewald) on

Justin Grunewald added that in her final days, his wife was at home surrounded by family and friends.

“We got her home to our comfy couch and she is resting peacefully and breathing easy surrounded by her best friends and family. She made it home in time to see some extra special finishes put on our new condo to make it feel like home.”

arti.patel@globalnews.ca

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