Gabriele was initially diagnosed with a rare salivary gland cancer in 2009 and thyroid cancer in 2010
Justin Grunewald is asking his followers to send “one last message” to his wife Gabriele “Gabe” Grunewald before she “heads up to heaven.”
On Sunday, Justin revealed that his professional distance runner wife, who gained thousands of fans over the years by sharing her inspiring cancer story, had been moved to comfort care after her condition began to worsen.
The decision came just two days after Gabe was readmitted to the ICU because she was experiencing septic shock.
“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,” he sadly announced on Instagram.
“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,” Justin added.
Gabe, 32, a former track and cross-country athlete for the University of Minnesota, was first diagnosed with a rare salivary gland cancer called adenoid cystic carcinoma in 2009. A year later, the Perham, Minnesota native learned she also had thyroid cancer.
Since her initial diagnoses, Gabe has continued to run amid her surgeries and treatments. She even placed 4th in the 2012 USA Olympic Trials — just narrowly missing the cut to make the Olympic team — and was the 2014 U.S. indoor champion in the 3,000-meter, according to her website.
While watching Gabe fight a few years back, Justin said he wrote her a letter to describe what she meant to him. That note, along with a heartbreaking photo of the couple holding hands in the hospital, was also shared to his Instagram on Sunday.
“Dear Gabriele,” he began. “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,” he continued.
Justin went on to explain how “life is scary” and that the couple unfairly “won the lottery of uncertainty” but said he’d rather have that life with Gabe “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,” he sweetly wrote.
He also noted how brave his wife has been through the terrifying experience and referenced her “Brave Like Gabe” foundation, which the runner created as a way to support rare cancer research and empower all cancer survivors through physical activity.
“I know you have been given the heaviest of tasks in life… 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,” he wrote.
“Because there isn’t a word in the dictionary for what you do or who you are,” Justin continued. “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,” he finished. “I love you.”
The post prompted a number of Justin’s followers to share messages of love and support to his wife, including one very simple but sweet message from Chip Gaines. The HGTV star has a very special connection to Gabe — she trained him for his first marathon in 2018.
“Love you @gigrunewald!! All I ever want is to be #braveLikeGabe. -til we meet again,” he commented on the post.
On Monday, Justin shared another heartbreaking photo — this time, of his wife on the couch at home in comfort care with several of her loved ones around her.
Though Gabe was surrounded by her friends and family in the photo, part of her head could be seen as she laid on the couch with her eyes closed.
Justin also revealed that as the couple returned to their new condo for the final time together, their friends Chip and Joanna Gaines, along with Magnolia PR director Brock Murphy, helped add some new décor to the walls to “make it feel like home.”
“‘There are only two ways to live your life. One as though nothing is a miracle, the other as though everything is a miracle,'” he wrote, referencing the sign on the wall. “@gigrunewald chose the latter. 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 @chipgaines, @joannagaines, and @brockwayne put on our new condo to make it feel like home,” he added. “For that, I have no words. #bravelikegabe #runningonhope #keeprunningonhope”
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Following her initial diagnosis ten years ago, Gabe’s adenoid cystic carcinoma returned in 2016 and 2017, according to her website.
Her last Instagram post, which came on May 4, stressed the importance of cancer research after she was forced to miss her Brave Like Gabe 5K because she was hospitalized with an infection.
“It’s not lost on me that maybe this is one of the most poignant ways to show just how critical research is,” she wrote. “Cancer is nothing if not incredibly inconvenient and we need more options. I wish I didn’t have to show it in this way.”