20. Gabrielle Grunewald
We’ve all heard the story of the brave and warrior-like athlete that overcomes hardship, adversary, and defies the odds. It’s always those people and stories that inspire us to be the best version of ourselves, the stories that change the way we experience life every day; this is Gabriele Grunewald’s heartbreaking, but uplifting story.
19. The News
Gabriele has always been spunky, feisty, and dedicated. She had always been a star runner and won just about every competition she completed it. She had a fighter spirit, and when her doctor told her some devastating news, she did what she knows best–she ran.
18. The Runner
Gabriele’s name was given to her by her mother, which was inspired by biblical names. When she was a kid, she got bullied and was given the nickname “Gabe” and although at first, she didn’t like it, soon she embraced it as her own. While her classmates were busy bullying her, she was focused on her passion–running.
17. High School
Gabriele is a natural born runner. She was 5’6 and 110 pounds in high school, making her fast as a lightning bolt. Her tall and thin yet in shape body brought her much success on the track in both high school and college. She was only 22 when she received the All American title.
16. Professional Career
She was ready to start her professional career, as now she was at the skill level of the best of the best. It was her fifth year in college (many athletes take an extra year) she noticed a small bump. As she soon would know, life wasn’t as peaceful as she thought it was…
15. The Bump
It was about a week before she was headed out for a crucial track meet in Arizona when she noticed something strange right below her left ear. She felt a small bump that she had never noticed before and it scared her. She immediately went to the doctor and they performed a biopsy…
14. The Results
She remembers how painful the biopsy was when they stuck the needle into collect some fluid. She got the call when she was sitting in an Arizona hotel room preparing for a meet that was supposed to fast track her to the big leagues. The 22-year-old received the shock of her life when her doctor told her she had cancer…
13. Devastating News
Gabe was in shock. She realized this was the worst thing that could have happened to her. Her doctors told her she had adenoid cystic carcinoma (ACC), which is a rare form of a primary gland cancer. It affects the major and minor salivary glands and is extremely uncommon, affecting less than 200,000 people in the US.
12. This Cancer
ACC tumors are often slow growing, and the 15-year survival rate is nearly 40%. She knew she was going to have to have surgery to remove the tumor, but telling her coaches and teammates turned out to be harder than she thought. Everyone was so concerned for her health, and she was upset that it meant her career was going to be put on hold.
11. The Worst Part
The worst part about this cancer is that it’s notoriously known for returning, over and over. There is nothing worse than being told you have cancer, to then find out it’s more than likely going to return throughout your whole life. It’s also known to return in sporadic locations, causing her to have scans to constantly check the spread of the disease.
She now had to begin the grueling process of trying to rid her body of cancer. She flew to Minnesota to undergo surgery for tumor removal, which took six hours and one of her glands with it. That wasn’t the end, however, she also had to undergo radiation treatments. Two months of radiation…
9. Years Of Worrying
Although they had successfully destroyed all the cancer during her first round of treatments, it returned three more times, just as the doctors predicted. Her running career kept taking a back seat while her main focus was her health. The first time it returned was only a year after her initial diagnosis, and this time, it was thyroid cancer…
8. Thyroid Cancer
When the cancer came back and appeared in her thyroid, it came back with a vengeance. The treatment for thyroid cancer was much more rigorous and caused her extreme pain. She pushed through with a brave face, and somehow, someway, managed to become a professional mid-distance runner and she had made quite the name for herself.
7. Her Plan
After months of decision-making, she and her doctors decided to go with chemo to treat the thyroid cancer. She wanted to wait until she qualified for the next running season though so that she did. The cancer was slow moving so until 2016, her life and career were doing just fine…
On August 7th, she went in for a routine (for her anyway) checkup at Abbott Northwestern Hospital ICU. The nurse noticed that something seemed odd; her liver seemed abnormally firm, and there was reason for concern…
5. A Tumor
Quickly, they figure out that she had a tumor on her liver, and it was large. This cancer was different… it was nothing like the cancers she had experienced before. This was a whole new battle she was going to have to fight…
4. The Removal
Luckily, it wasn’t all bad news. Although the tumor had taken over the majority of her liver, doctors knew they could remove it–and all the new cancer with it. It the midst of a dark time, there was a little light shining upon them.
The tumor was removed, and the entire surgery went just as planned. That wasn’t the end of it, however, Gabe still had to undergo more chemo, and this time it was going to be harder than ever…
2. Every Set Back
With every new diagnosis came the overwhelming sensation that she was never going to get ahead of this cancer. She kept having to put her running career on hold and it was beginning to take its toll on her. She just wanted to be healthy and compete doing the thing she loved most. Her joints hurt so bad she thought it was the end of her career.
1. It’s A Marathon
Her doctors found 12 more tumors and told her that this fight is a marathon, not a sprint, something that resonated with her and caused her to keep fighting. She will never be able to say goodbye to cancer forever, but she will always do her best to outrun it. We hope her fighting spirit goes on and her will to live and continue to do what she loves most will inspire others who feel like giving up.