Message to Vail Valley: ‘Just Don’t Fall’ |

Message to Vail Valley: ‘Just Don’t Fall’

Sarah Mausolf
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the Vail DailyVail Valley books: Josh Sundquist's heartwarming memoir about overcoming cancer sells for $25.95 at The Bookworm of Edwards. Published by Penguin in New York, the book was released nationally this week.

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado – Josh Sundquist, who will be in Vail Sunday, became a ski racer against all odds. As a child, Sundquist regularly put a heating pad on his leg to ease the “growing pains.” But at age 9, he discovered those weren’t just growing pains – he had a life-threating cancer called Ewing’s sarcoma. Doctors said he had a 50 percent chance of surviving.

When chemotherapy failed to shrink the cancer in his leg, Sundquist faced a terrifying prospect: having his leg amputated.

Right before his surgery, Sundquist made a vow: “I will beat the cancer and I will learn how to run. I will be strong.”

As it turns out, Sundquist’s amputation would prevent him from running but it did not stop him from skiing. With the help of special poles, he learned to ski on one leg.

And with support from his church community, he accomplished his dream – competing in the Paralympics in Turin, Italy.

Sundquist will speak on Sunday at Battle Mountain High School in Edwards as part of the Vail Symposium’s winter lineup. Now 25 and living in Washington D.C., he is not only surviving but thriving. Sundquist penned “Just Don’t Fall,” a poignant, funny memoir written from a child’s perspective. Writing the book, Sundquist said, was his way of trying to find meaning in his experiences.

“At the end of the day, we all want to see that the events in our lives are not a random series of events,” he said.

To perfect the childlike voice, he read a book about child psychology and made a list of words a kid would never say (instead of amputation, he used the phrase ‘cut my leg off’).

“It was a cool challege,” he said. “I kind of got the idea from the book ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.’ It’s told from the perspective of a 13- or 14-year-old kid who has autism. It gives you the perspective of being austistic.”

During his visit to the Vail Valley, Sundquist said he plans to talk about his experiences.

“I just kind of tell about my life and share my story about having cancer and losing my leg and becoming a skier racer, with the idea of sharing a story about overcoming adversity.”

Sundquist has several connections to Vail. He trained for the Paralympics with local ski racer Ralph Green. Back when he was racing, he also traveled to Vail for the U.S. Disabled Nationals.

“I think Vail is the best place in the world,” he said. “People are always excited about Europe but I think that’s just to impress people.”

Staff Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2928 or

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