August 16, 2016
The eyes of the track world are on Rio de Janeiro, but some things are bigger than running. Cancer is one of them, and today 2014 U.S. Indoor 3,000-meter champion Gabriele Grunewald revealed on Instagram that doctors found a 13 x 15 centimeter cancerous tumor in her liver, which she described as “a metastatic recurrence of adenoid cystic carcinoma that I was first diagnosed with and recovered from in 2009.”
This is Grunewald’s third bout with the disease. The first occurrence in 2009 affected her salivary gland. Then in 2011, Grunewald was diagnosed with thyroid gland cancer, which she overcame after a thyroidectomy. The 30-year-old Grunewald’s comeback story has been one of the most inspirational in the sport, as she has returned strong to running each time and has continued to run personal bests — she set her 1500 pb of 4:01.48 in 2013, won the U.S. Indoor title in 2014 and set her 5,000 pb of 15:19.01 in 2015. She finished 12th in the 1500 at the U.S. Olympic Trials last month.
Grunewald said she will have surgery to remove up to 60 percent of her liver as soon as possible, but that may not be for a couple of weeks. Grunewald expects to make a full recovery within one to two months and said that the left side of her liver should “take over the space previously occupied by the affected right lobe and grow a normal sized, functioning liver within ~3 weeks.”
Even in the face of horrible news, Grunewald remained relentlessly positive and said she is committed to returning to the track next year.
“Getting rid of it and becoming a 3x cancer survivor is the new reality I am now embracing…There’s nothing more I’d like than to get on with the surgery, recover, and hit the track harder than ever in 2017.”
LetsRun.com and the running world are rooting for a quick recovery. Go Gabe, go.
Instead of posting a picture of me fake smiling, ugly crying, or an inspirational quote that right now feels hollow, I thought I’d just post the real deal. The above picture was drawn yesterday by my surgical oncologist (enhanced by me & snapchat) and explains the situation with my liver, which is experiencing infiltration by a large tumor (13x15cm) — a metastatic recurrence of adenoid cystic carcinoma that I was first diagnosed with and recovered from in 2009. When you’re a cancer survivor, denial is not a river in Africa. It is a place you must live in order to keep going with your life: positively, optimistically believing that it will never come back and that you’ll live a healthy, long, uninterrupted life. But it did come back, and it sucks. Getting rid of it and becoming a 3x cancer survivor is the new reality I am now embracing. Outside of the biopsy revealing that the growth was indeed cancer, I have been extremely blessed in other ways. Feeling loved and supported by friends and family is #1. But the other lucky breaks involve the nature of this tumor itself and the 100% health that I’m expected to return to after surgery. I’m lucky there is just one solitary mass that’s resectable. I’m lucky we discovered this cancer before it it fully overtook my liver or interfered with the function of other organs. I’m lucky I have health insurance and live in a place where excellent healthcare is available. I’m lucky the liver is a resilient and regenerative body part, and even though they will remove up to 60% of it during surgery, the left side will take over the space previously occupied by the affected right lobe and grow a normal sized, functioning liver within ~3 weeks. I’m lucky I’m expected to fully recover and get on with life within 1-2 months. So yes, I have cancer. But yes, I am also very lucky. My surgical oncologist is a busy guy so I’m going to get this unwelcome guest removed ASAP, but that might not be for a couple weeks — I will keep you guys posted when I know more. Thank you in advance for the love and encouragement. There’s nothing more I’d like than to get on with the surgery, recover, and hit the track harder than ever in 2017. Love, Gabe.
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