Champion Minnesota runner who inspired many with lengthy cancer battle is in ‘grave condition’


A 32-year-old championship runner who has inspired many through her 10-year-long, public fight against cancer is in grave condition.

Gabriele Grunewald’s husband revealed she was moved to comfort care at a hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Sunday after suffering from septic shock and rapidly deteriorating liver function.   

Justin Grunewald urged his wife’s friends, fans and admirers to ‘send her one last message on her wall or on her phone before she heads up to heaven’.

Gabriele was just 22 years old when she was first diagnosed with adenoid cystic carcinoma – a rare form of cancer found primarily in the saliva glands – in 2009 while running long-distance for the University of Minnesota’s track and cross-country teams. 

After undergoing surgery and radiation therapy, she went on to finish second in the 1,500 meters at the 2010 NCAA championships. 

She continued running professionally through 2017, receiving treatments for cancers in her liver and thyroid along the way.   

Gabriele’s battle with cancer began 10 years ago when she discovered a lump on her neck and immediately suspected something was wrong.  

The pain she endured during a biopsy was the worst she’d ever experienced.

Devastatingly, the painful procedure would end up becoming just one of many she’d receive in years to come as she beat cancer multiple times, only for it to return again and again.

Describing the first diagnosis years later, Gabriele said she knew she would get through it. 

‘In that moment I had a swirl of different thoughts, but as a 22-year-old, I think I mainly thought I was gonna get through it,’ she told Cosmopolitan.  

Months later, after undergoing extensive treat, Gabriele ran what she called the best season of her life.  

‘I never expected to run so much faster after a cancer diagnosis. But I was really motivated to get the most out of myself,’ she said.  

Two years later in 2011, Gabriele was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. 

Months later she fell short of the 2012 Olympic team, finishing fourth in the 1,500 at the trials. In 2014 she became the US indoor champion in the 3,000. 

The cancer reared its ugly head for a third time in August 2016 in the form of a large tumor on Gabriele’s liver.  

The surgery to remove it left her with a purple scar snaking across her stomach, which she often showed off on the track.  

She kept running through the next year, before being forced to retire in 2017 following her fourth diagnosis. 

Gabriele vowed to fight the fourth bout of cancer as fiercely as she had the other three, entertaining the idea of entering a clinical trial.    

‘When I think about the future, I’m definitely scared about what it holds in terms of my health,’ she admitted to Cosmopolitan.  

Gabriele had been admitted to the hospital’s intensive care unit last weekend and was throught to be near death. 

When her husband Justin, who is a doctor, told her she was dying, she responded: ‘Not today.’ 

She bounced back briefly left the ICU before being readmitted on Tuesday with septic shock. She was administered a drug in hopes of extending her life. 

On Instagram Sunday, Justin wrote that it ‘breaks my heart to say’ his wife’s condition had worsened rapidly overnight.  

‘Wanting to do her no harm, we have made the difficult decision to move her to comfort cares this afternoon,’ he wrote.  

Gabriele has received an outpouring of support on social media under the hashtag #bravelikegabe. 


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