Josh Sundquist: Just Don't Fall
By Shannon Woodland
The 700 Club
In 2006, 20 year-old Josh Sundquist fulfilled a dream - representing the United States Paralympic ski team in Turin, Italy. His autobiography, Just Don’t Fall is about more than overcoming a physical disability; it’s about how facing death changed a ten year-old boy’s heart, and set the course for his life.
Josh knew he’d been given a gift. “There’s certainly a part of me that’s always thought, ‘Wow I almost died of cancer and in a sense I’ve been given a second chance at life. As a result I have this responsibility to my doctors or to God to make sure that the second chance at life is as rock solid as it possibly can be.’”
Josh was only nine when he and his family learned he had a form of cancer called Ewing’s Sarcoma. He would have to undergo chemotherapy for a year. Doctors only gave him a 50 percent chance to live.
Reality set in with young Josh. “All of a sudden it matters what happens when you die. It matters if there’s a God and if there’s a reason that things are happening to me. So, I think I was forced to come to terms with those sorts of spiritual questions and make my relationship with Jesus my own.
Josh’s family agonized with him through chemotherapy. His father, Paul, says it was only their faith that got them through. “It was really hard, and to think about trying to get through the whole year was just insurmountable, impossible. Jesus says, ‘Take no thought for tomorrow, everyday has enough worries of its own.’ So what got me through for that time was ‘I can get through one more day’”.
But after two months of chemotherapy, doctors determined the cancer was still growing. For Josh to survive, his left leg had to be amputated. For nine year-old Josh it was all about one thing. “My biggest fear before I lost my leg was I wasn’t going to be able to play any sports.”
As Josh healed, he heard about something that he believed he could do – downhill ski racing. “I really got the idea and grabbed hold of the belief that I could choose something I wanted to do with my life and really do it.”
Josh lived in Harrisonburg, Virginia, home to Massanutten ski resort. He attended a ski development program and within a short time, started competing. Josh worked hard for years. By 16, he was so determined to succeed that he told everyone about his plans to compete in the Paralympics.
His father remembers all too well. “I remember him talking about that in high school with his class mates, in front of the school that he wanted to be a Paralympic skier, and I thought, ‘You’re really laying it right on the line.’”
After beating cancer and working for many years on becoming a competitive skier, Josh earned his place on the 2006 United States Paralympic team. Even though he didn’t medal in Turin, it was the proudest moment of his life. Today, he shares his story in high school auditoriums and executive boardrooms.
Josh’s message is life-changing. “If I didn’t believe there was a God who was sovereign and who had a bigger purpose for my life, then I don’t know how I could possibly accept the things that have happened to me. The only reason I can do that is because I have a faith that there’s a God out there who has sort of a larger purpose for my life whether or not I can see it.”
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