By Josh Quarmby on 17 May 2017
Adam Kellerman, 26, has represented Australia at two Paralympic games and ten World Team Cup’s in his sport of wheelchair tennis. This is an achievement in itself, yet it is Adam’s story of surviving cancer and overcoming depression that many may say is his greatest achievement.
At thirteen years of age Adam was struck down with pain in his right leg while playing soccer. He admits he had been experiencing intermittent pains in his leg for almost a year, but dismissed them as regular aches and pains due to playing a lot of sport.
“This day was different. The pain was much worse. I couldn’t actually run. I got to the halfway line and it just hit me. I couldn’t run to the point I told the coach to take me off” Adam recalls.
The following day, Adam’s mum took him to a physiotherapist where they discovered the muscle on his right leg was wasting away. Following an x-ray and bone biopsy, Adam was diagnosed with a form of bone cancer in his right hip called Ewings Sarcoma.
Adam endured multiple rounds of chemotherapy, followed by major surgery to remove the cancerous tumour in his hip.
“I remember going to the waiting area before surgery and the surgical nurse drawing a line on my leg where they were going to cut. I was so numb. I couldn’t feel anything. I don’t remember feeling scared or anxious. I just remember feeling…blank”. This feeling of numbness stayed with Adam for years after the surgery.
Recovery following surgery included six weeks of bed rest; six weeks which Adam describes as the hardest period of his treatment. “The numbness and blankness turned into a deep hole of depression, to the point where I tried to take my own life.”
Until now, Adam has not spoken publicly of his suicide attempt, though believes it is an important part of his story. “It is the ultimate feeling of powerlessness. It was like ‘I’ve got nothing left. I want it all to be over. It’s all too much'”.
“When I saw my mum’s reaction to when I tried to take my life, I knew that it wasn’t the easy way out for them.”
“After surgery, I couldn’t play soccer anymore. I was still very depressed.”
Desperate to see their son happy and active again, Adam’s parents encouraged him to attend Wheelchair Sports NSW to try out some of the sports they had on offer.
“At this point I was walking all the time (with a cane), so I didn’t even know that I could play wheelchair sport”. However, Adam went along with his parents to see what it was all about and the following week attended a beginner’s wheelchair tennis clinic.
“It was such a thrill being out in the sun and playing sport again. It was like it ignited something inside me that had been lost. From that moment on, things started to turn around for me.”
Five short months after starting wheelchair tennis, Adam’s coach encouraged him to attend a junior camp in Adelaide where he would meet other wheelchair tennis players and the Australian national coach. A few weeks after attending the camp in Adelaide, Adam was invited to represent the Australian junior team for the World Team Cup events in Poland and Sweden.
“All the best players in the world were there. They were inspiring, strong, dedicated and determined. It was at that moment, when I saw what was possible I set my mind to playing for Australia in the Paralympics and started working towards that.”
Adam has represented Australia at two Paralympic games and ten World Team Cups since starting wheelchair tennis in December 2006.
His schedule is kept full by not only competing professionally at wheelchair tennis, but in sharing his story of overcoming adversity with schools, charities and companies across Australia. He has a love of helping to empower and encourage others to lead a happy, fulfilling and successful life.
“It feels good to share my story. It feels healing for me to be speaking about my experience”
Adam sees it as his purpose in life to empower people, to find their inner strength, peace, happiness and build resilience.
“Everyone goes through hard times. It is so easy to get lost in a vacuum of darkness, nothingness and depression. I was there and had to claw my way back out over the last nine years when I had the real desire to start working on myself and to really find inner peace, happiness and success as well.”
“If I can come back from where I was, I think anyone can.”
When asked what Adam would say to others who are going through difficult and dark times he was able to provide practical and raw advice. He also talked about how vital meditation and mindfulness was in his own recovery and self-improvement.
Adam says, “It’s okay. Whatever you are feeling. Whatever you are experiencing, whatever you are going through. It’s okay to be there right now and you don’t need to be judging yourself about that on top of what you’re already going through.”
“You are not alone. It may feel like it, but there’s a whole globe full of people. Many of us are sharing the same pain, the same suffering and have been on similar journeys to where you’re at right now. It’s just about learning how to ask for help and not comparing your experience to anyone else’s experience.”
“Be patient and life will open up to you in a whole new way.”