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Husband of star runner, 32, shares heartbreaking letter as she 'heads to heaven'

The inspiring runner, who has had multiple forms of cancer, has died at 32, her husband said.
Runner Gabe Grunewald's husband says she's in grave condition
Justin Grunewald asked for people to send any final messages to his dying wife, runner Gabriele "Gabe" Grunewald.@justingrunewald1/Instagram
/ Source: TODAY

The husband of inspiring runner Gabriele "Gabe" Grunewald announced the heartbreaking news that she has died at 32 and is now "heading up to heaven."

Justin Grunewald wrote in an Instagram post on Tuesday that Gabe, who was first diagnosed with cancer 10 years ago, had passed away after having returned home from the hospital to be with friends and family after the decision to forego any further treatment.

"At 7:52 I said 'I can’t wait until I get to see you again' to my hero, my best friend, my inspiration, my wife,'' he wrote. "@gigrunewald 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."

Grunewald has provided an emotional update on his wife's condition a day earlier, posting a photo of her resting on a couch.

"'There are only two ways to live your life,'' he wrote. "One as though nothing is a miracle, the other as though everything is a miracle.' @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."

In an earlier Instagram post, he wrote that Gabe's health had taken a turn for the worse.

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

He also asked his wife's fans and followers to send her any final messages of love.

"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,'' he wrote.

One of those fans sending his love was former "Fixer Upper" star Chip Gaines, whom Gabe trained when he ran his first marathon last year. Justin also wrote that Gaines and his wife, Joanna, helped spruce up their condo with new finishes before Gabe was brought home for comfort care.

"Love you @gigrunewald!!'' Chip Gaines commented on Justin's Instagram post. "All I ever want is to be #braveLikeGabe. -til we meet again."

Gabe's brother, Caleb Anderson, also wrote an emotional Instagram post on Monday saying goodbye to his sister and quoting The Band Perry’s song "If I Die Young."

"You know I love you with all my heart and will miss you like crazy forever,'' he wrote. "I am so grateful for the time and memories I have had with you and can’t wait to see you again in heaven."

Gabe was a distance runner at the University of Minnesota in 2009 when she was first diagnosed with adenoid cystic carcinoma (ACC), a rare form of cancer in the salivary gland. She then was diagnosed with thyroid cancer a year later.

She persevered through treatments and surgery to continue her running career, going on to finish fourth in the 1,500-meter race at the 2012 Olympic trials, running a personal best in the same race a year later and then winning the indoor 3,000-meter national title in 2014.

The ACC returned in 2016, seven years after it was initially treated, when doctors found a large tumor that resulted in 50% of her liver being removed in surgery, according to her website. The surgery left her with a large scar on her abdomen that could be seen during her races, but she still pushed to achieve her dream of qualifying for the 2020 Olympics.

In an Instagram post on May 4, she shared a picture of herself in a hospital bed with apologies that she would not be able to run in a 5K race for her Brave Like Gabe foundation, which raises awareness and funding to combat rare cancers.

"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 because there’s so many people I’d love to meet and catch up with tomorrow."

As her fans, family and friends mourned her death, Justin ended one of his Instagram posts on Monday with a poignant letter that he wrote to his wife a few years ago.

"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,'' he wrote. "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."