“Why do I go to the track every day? Why do I not give up? It’s because I’m hopeful that the new technology in treating cancer and personalizing medicine will work. It’s no secret that my disease and I need a breakthrough. I’ve got to stay alive long enough to see them and maybe it works for me. Maybe one of these clinical trials will work for me. It’s a scary place to be but I don’t think I could live my life if I didn’t have hope someone could figure something out.“ Gabriele Anderson Grunewald to me in 2017
Gabe never lost hope. To me, she was the greatest display of courage, determination and human spirit when someone could be handed the worst of circumstances. I’m among the thousands of people that she’s positively impacted in her incredible 32 years of life. I met her for the first time in Lignano, Italy in the Summer of 2013. I remember sitting down in a hotel lobby for hours with her and Andy Bayer because there was no air conditioning in the rooms and that was the only spot with wifi. A bunch of the athletes gathered there. Gabe was so excited about her upcoming wedding to Justin Grunewald and just brightened the room while we all made the most of a less than ideal situation. There were so many mosquitos. That positivity was just how she was all the time. At the time, she had already battled cancer twice but I had no idea.
She was first diagnosed with adenoid cystic carcinoma (a rare form of cancer in her salivary gland) as a 22-year-old while competing for the University of Minnesota in 2009. She underwent surgery to remove it but cancer returned in her thyroid in 2010. She underwent a thyroidectomy and radioactive iodine treatment before making a full recovery and return to racing in 2011. Then she finished fourth at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials in the 1,500 meters (just one spot shy of making the national team for the Summer Games and the most heartbreaking places to finish).
I was fortunate to be in Monaco with Flotrack when she ran 4:01.48 and was beaming with excitement but she was still looking forward to getting better and faster in her next race. Even in 2017, when cancer returned for the fourth time, we met up in New York and she shared her plan to keep running. No friend has ever been braver through it all.
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She’s crossed one more finish line and is now in heaven. We can all aspire to be #bravelikegabe. Let’s also celebrate every run, every personal best and every victory because she was never one to take life and running for granted.
Please consider making a donation to the Brave Like Gabe Foundation, where proceeds go toward rare cancer research centers including Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.