101. The Power of Grit to Be a Survivor with Sunday Burquest

The Do a Day Podcast from Bryan Falchuk

Sunday is Grit Girl.

Sunday Burquest is a wife, mother of four, inspirational speaker, breast cancer survivor and reality tv personality. Diagnosed with breast cancer in April of 2012, she endured multiple surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, and a bout with depression. A culmination of difficult life circumstances, led Sunday to the realization she was much stronger than she imagined; she discovered her grit.

Taking her new-found strength to the next level, she followed a life-long dream to audition for the Emmy award-winning television series Survivor where she was cast on the show’s 33rd season Millennials vs Gen-X (2016). After surviving the grueling competition, she knew she had taken grit to another level.  Using her 25 years’ experience in a high-level leadership position that included both speaking and mentorship, she took her skills to a new platform as a Keynote Speaker. In her presentation, “Your survival can be summarized in one word: grit”, Sunday draws on personal experiences while she presents a path for the audience to discover their own grit. Her dynamic and engaging talks have listeners on the edge of their seats both laughing and crying, but most importantly inspired with hope.

Sunday is the author of, “Grit Girl Power to Survive, Inspired by Grace”, walking the reader through her journey to finding grit while providing a path for them to do the same.

Key Points from the Episode with Sunday Burquest:
  • Everyone is born with and has grit and strength on the inside
  • We are all survivors in our own right
  • It’s not a competition – everything effects everyone differently
  • We are all survivors to Sunday, and she knows that because we are here, breathing. That means we’ve survived.
  • Often, we don’t even realize what we’ve gone through until after it’s over
  • This grit came from Sunday’s mom
  • Growing up, her father was an alcoholic
  • When she was 11, her mother gave her father an ultimatum to stop drinking or leave, and he chose his family
  • Her mother had been a person of faith, and her father became one after he gave up drinking
  • This was Sunday’s first real memory of seeing the strength her mother had
  • When she was 30, her father died of Cancer when he was 49 and Sunday had three young children
  • A few years later, her father-in-law also died of Cancer
  • In the midst of this, her brother and sister-in-law lost a baby full-term, and another of her brothers faced a heroin addiction at 17 years old.
  • Sunday felt an obligation to help her mother with her siblings through this, especially given that two of them were still in their teens.
  • In 2010, Sunday’s husband Jeff suddenly went into the hospital and had emergency heart surgery for a hole in his heart with a clot in it.
  • The doctor very coldly gave Sunday the choice of operating with her husband dying on the table or not operating and having him die from his heart issues.
  • She chose the surgery, which lasted 10 hours.
  • A couple of weeks after the surgery, he was bleeding internally and nearly died again, getting to the hospital in the nick of time.
  • The doctors said he should have died this time, too, which to Sunday was a clear sign of a miracle, and she demanded the doctors put that on Jeff’s chart.
  • She had this clarity that her husband would pull through, and that got her through what was a very difficult time.
  • We talked about how her kids processed and dealt with the situation, which was different for each kid, but was a lot (combined with what Sunday went through with her own health, which we were about to get into)
  • Her kids have seen both of their parents survive, which strengthened their sense of faith and connection with their family.
  • They’re very much aware that they’re blessed to have their parents in their lives in a way that perhaps other people wouldn’t be.
  • A little less than a year after her husband’s health crisis, Sunday noticed a lump and went in to get it checked.
  • She got a call after a biopsy from a nurse that she had invasive ductal carcinoma.
  • Sunday didn’t know how to react, but she was reserved while just dealing with the idea of how she could possibly tell her kids about this after just getting through potentially losing their dad and the two other people they knew with cancer having died (their grandfathers).
  • She talked to them about how hard she was going to fight, all the money that goes into breast cancer research, etc. But it was still tough for them.
  • Her surgeon was as cold as Jeff’s heart surgeon was, but they built a plan for surgery, chemo and then radiation.
  • She balanced being honest with it being hard and showing strength when talking to her kids about it.
  • They saw her cry and struggle, and they saw her get up every day and do what she needed to do.
  • After her first round of chemo, Sunday was overcome with a panic attack – something she’s never had before and wasn’t expecting.
  • Her doctor knew what it was, and helped her to understand it and recognize that it happens in these situations, and she’s ok for feeling it.
  • The process was a gift to her, as it taught her empathy she’d never have before.
  • She kept wondering when she would get back to normal, but she realized her normal is different now, like what we are facing right now.
  • Sunday is the kind of person who tries to find positives in every situation, and this was one of them in her cancer experience.
  • Another is that her family was guilty of busyness at the expense of family, and that has changed.
  • In total, she had 7 surgeries, 8 rounds of chemo and 28 days of radiation, which, all together, took over a year.
  • I asked how she and her family could have gone all of this, and then go off to play Survivor.
  • She and her oldest son applied to play together (in the Blood vs. Water seasons), but didn’t ultimately make it.
  • They were fans of the show as a family, and they are all clearly survivors, so it was a perfect fit.
  • Despite not making it with her son, she tried again, and made it for the Millennials vs. Gen-X season.
  • She very much filled The Mom role on the show, as a caring and supportive person.
  • It was very interesting to play that role for your adversaries given her desire to win.
  • For Sunday, being faith-based was a big part of how she was able to be strong and driven to win and yet also be supportive and caring.
  • That sat well with her because her values meant she would not want to be purely a competitor without being a human, too.
  • We talked about the ethics of lying, and she talked about why it was ok to lie.
  • She wasn’t going to go too far with it, getting dirty or mean, but she would say she was voting for one person and go and vote for another.
  • She said if she was playing a game with her kids, she would still beat them if that’s how the game was going. It’s a game, and she was there to win, so lying is a tool of that process without needing to go a step beyond that to offending and demeaning people.
  • We got into the generational differences in style around working together, underestimating your opponents and thought processes.
  • Millennials are used to working in groups whereas Gen-Xers aren’t.
  • When you put Millennials in a top-down, order-taking situation, they don’t know how to work like that.


Subscribe to The Do a Day Podcast

Subscribe to Do a Day on Apple Podcasts Subscribe to Do a Day on Stitcher  Subscribe to Do a Day on Google Play Subscribe to the Do a Day RSS feed

Keep Growing with Do a Day

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.