Overcoming Adversity and Rising to the Top: The Inspirational Story of Josh Sundquist

Alyssa Chartrand, Writing Editor

February 21, 2019—Grace College and Seminary, located in Winona Lake, Indiana, will be welcoming the one-of-a-kind, inspirational speaker Josh Sundquist. For those unfamiliar with Josh, you are sure in for a treat. From Charlottesville, Virginia, comes the unforgettable story of an ordinary boy who loses his leg to cancer, faces senseless bullying, and ultimately lives on to become a Paralympic ski racer, a bestselling author, a prominent YouTuber, a comedian, and a highly-requested motivational speaker. Despite his 228 thousand followers on Instagram, I feel not enough people have come across his amazing story. Here is just a small glimpse of someone whose charisma and passion allowed him to overcome adversity and become a guiding light for amputees, cancer-fighters, and those in need of hope:

Prior to hospital care and surgeries, Josh Sundquist was a healthy boy, passionate about playing soccer and fulfilling other childhood whims. Then, at just 9 years old, Josh was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, an incredibly rare cancer that targets the bones and soft tissue, affecting only about 200 children and young adults in the U.S. each year. Upon diagnosis, he and his family learned that he would have to endure one year of chemotherapy with only a 50% chance of living. After two months of chemotherapy, doctors determined that the cancer was still growing and thus, he would have to have his left leg amputated in order for him to survive. This particular amputation would be a hip disarticulation, which the Limbless Association defines as “the removal of the entire limp up to and including the femur.” Walking would be difficult and running would be impossible. When the fateful day came and doctors greeted him with a wheelchair to escort him operating room, the young warrior would turn down their offer and walk himself in—knowing far well he would not be walking out. Waking up to an unfortunate reality (and painful phantom pains), Josh thought his dreams of playing sports and having a normal life would be over. Instead, he was given a new beginning:

Despite the success of the operation, Josh would still be given the prognosis that he may only have three to six months to live. As Josh recuperated and continued his chemotherapy, he witnessed alpine ski racing and amputees competing on television; he felt inspired to do just that. By age 13, he beat the odds; his battle was over and he was officially declared cured of his disease. Nevertheless, learning to adapt to his amputation would prove to be a whole new battle. His life as a previously homeschooled boy would be transformed by his transition into high school. A bully (unaware of his amputation due to his prosthesis) would trip him in the hall. He would struggle in his quest find a girlfriend and would become self-conscious about his appearance. Yet, his passion for skiing would help him ease out of high school difficulties. By age 16, he took up ski racing and, despite his loss of a limb, he trained ruthlessly at the Massanutten ski resort in Harrisonburg, Virginia. At age 17, he would move to Colorado to pursue professional ski racing. In 2006, he was admitted into the U.S. Paralympic Ski Team and would compete in the 2006 Paralympics in Turino, Italy. He may not have won any medals, but despite his limitations, he made the very best of the opportunities given to him and felt rewarded by the experience. He would retire from skiing that year.

Even before his time on the Paralympic Ski Team, he started his journey of delivering speeches—beginning in high school at 16 and moving toward bigger crowds, as he addressed childhood cancer and skiing with a disability. This would lead him onto a path of inspirational speaking, later taking him around the U.S. and the world for various organizations, schools, and seminars. After high school, he chose to set himself ahead in academia and achieved his bachelor of business administration at the College of William and Mary and then later his master’s in Communications from the University of Southern California. Following skiing, Josh joined the U.S. Amputee Soccer Team, making him the first person in history to compete in both sports. In 2001, Josh had become a contributing writer for Daily Guideposts and Guideposts Magazine. He would later publish works in The Washington Post and Newsweek. His motivational speaking occupation is currently active, and he has spoken at the Pennsylvania 2012 FBLA Leadership Conference, the White House, Boy Scouts of America, Children’s Miracle Network, and many more. He was selected as one of CNN’s 2007 Heroes, leading to the establishment of a social networking website for amputees known as LessThanFour.org. He has authored three works, all of which highlight various parts of his life, struggles, previous disease, and love story. When he is not public speaking, he serves as a hilarious YouTube personality, a Halloween costume enthusiast, a travelling comedian, and a writer. He also enjoys the perks of being married to his wife Ashley Elizabeth Nolan, whom he proposed to in 2015.

If you wish to experience Josh, Grace College has extended its invitation to the public. The following is a confirmed Facebook invitation:   

On Thursday, February 21, Josh Sundquist will share his story at Grace College. Josh is a motivational speaker, bestselling author, Paralympian, and Halloween enthusiast. With his humorous and unique view on life, Josh inspires people to chase after their calling and pursue their direction. He will be speaking in chapel during Career Week. Blending humor and inspiration, Josh is a speaker you need to hear.

When: Thursday, February 21, 10:30 a.m.
Where: Manahan Orthopaedic Capital Center (on the campus of Grace College)

There are no tickets needed for this event. It is free and open to the public. We will be hosting contests on our social media pages for an opportunity to have lunch with Josh. Be sure to follow us for more details and your chance to win.  

I have been inspired by Josh Sundquist since he made his way into my Instagram feed about two years ago. I invite you all of you to check him out on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram or check out his books at the library. His videos and pictures serve as great reminders about the wonderfulness of diversity and give our society a deeper understanding of disabilities Despite his limitations and his past fight with cancer, Josh Sundquist is a positive and optimistic force that helps steer our conversation for inclusiveness and ableism by giving us a fresh dose of veracity and humor. If this is not enough to persuade you to check him out, then just know he is just as wonderful to watch and gives the same vibe to viewers as John and Hank Green! If you are a part of the Marian faculty or board, I would wildly recommend that you invite him to one of our coffeehouses (Booking is done through The Sundquist Company LLC).