“Good race,” someone says.
“Thank you,” I say, because it was a good race. It wasn’t fast – the scoreboard referee writes my time on the board as two minutes and thirty-six seconds, exactly two minutes slower than the leading time – but it was a good race. Really good. I see Lydia’s mom. She smiles at me. I look around. No Lydia. It doesn’t matter. After this race I am sure I will be able to make the Paralympic team, sure I can keep training and trying and getting back up until I actually get that uniform[…]
– from Just Don’t Fall, page 194 –
Josh Sundquist was only nine years old when he was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma – a rare type of cancer which typically attacks the bone. In Josh’s case, he was given only a 50% chance of survival. He underwent a year of chemotherapy, spending most of that time in a hospital, and eventually lost his left leg to the disease. But he survived.
Just Don’t Fall is Josh’s story beginning shortly before his cancer diagnosis up to the 2006 Olympics. It is an inspirational story – not because Josh survived cancer and a leg amputation, but because of who he is as a person and how he got there. Raised in a conservative, Christian home and home schooled until his freshman year of high school, Josh Sundquist was surrounded by parents and siblings who loved him and a community who stepped up and gave their support when the Sundquist family needed it. Even still, the challenges were huge – financial, emotional, and physical. Josh’s mother, Linda, later was diagnosed with an incurable form of Lymphoma and his brother Matt struggled to find his own place in the world after growing up in the shadow of Josh’s cancer. Josh struggled to feel accepted by his peers as he grew from small boy into young man. Despite these challenges, Josh Sundquist had a dream. He had always imagined himself as a well known athlete, and becoming a ski racer on the Paralympic Team was the goal he set his sights on. In 2006 he skied for the United States Paralympic Team in Turino, Italy – an amazing accomplishment and a testament to courage, heart and perseverance.
I read Just Don’t Fall over a few short days and found myself completely charmed by the honest, heartfelt prose of a kid who overcame the odds to follow his dream. Josh Sundquist is funny, endearing, and genuine. In his memoir, he captures the innocent voice of his childhood which then evolves into the awkwardness of adolescence and finally into the insight of a mature young man. Just Don’t Fall is not only a story about how an individual overcame obstacles to become an accomplished athlete…it is about a family and a community, and the impact on them all with the devastating diagnosis of cancer. It is also a story of faith and doubt, and how one comes to terms with the fears and traumas of life while still believing in a larger purpose.
Josh Sundquist writes from the heart, and in doing so he pulls his readers deeply into his life. You will find yourself laughing, crying and eventually celebrating his accomplishments.
Recommended reading for those who enjoy well-written, touching memoirs with a message.
FTC Disclosure: This book was provided to me by the publisher for review on my blog.