Adam Bernard’s first job was at Torno Hardware. “I carried large bags of manure,” he remembers.
He’s always been a hard worker. The young Westporter started martial arts at 7 years old, and worked his way through various belts at Fred Villardi’s Fairfield studio.
He had not enjoyed writing — until he learned how, at Fairfield Prep (Class of 1996). He honed his journalism skills at Hofstra University, then started as a Connecticut Post sportswriter before turning to his first love: music.
Bernard covers the indie scene, discovering new talent “in tiny venues with sticky floors” watching up to 100 bands live each year. He wrote 14 national magazine cover stories. (“I interviewed Katy Perry before she kissed a girl, and 50 Cent before he looked to get rich or die trying,” he says.)
All the while, he continued martial arts.
In January of 2017, his instructors told him he was ready for his 5th degree black belt test in June.
Three weeks later, Bernard was diagnosed with testicular cancer. It had already spread to his lungs.
Four days after that, he had surgery. He has nothing but praise for his oncologist, Dr. Edward Duda.
Bernard was undeterred. “I looked at it as an aggravation,” he says. “I’m fortunate that testicular cancer has a great cure rate.”
His chemotherapy regimen was “super-aggressive.” But Bernard kept training — at Villari and CrossFit — 6 days a week.
Because chemo affected his blood, he could not hit things — or be hit by them. That’s not easy for a martial artist. But he adapted.
Every Memorial Day, CrossFit does a brutal workout. Bernard finished — wearing a 20-pound vest.
Two weeks after finishing chemo, Bernard took his black belt test. He passed.
The next day, X-rays revealed a tumor was still on his lung. “It was not the Disney ending I wanted,” he says.
He kept going after his second surgery. He competed in the CrossFit open. Today, Bernard is healthy.
And he’s the author of ChemBro: Embracing Beastmode to Beat Cancer.
“People told me I had to write that book,” he says. “I didn’t think I was doing anything special. But someone said, ‘Most people aren’t like you. They hear cancer, and assume the worst.”
He also realizes that some people are uncomfortable talking — or reading — about testicular cancer.
“If I can be open about my story, and help someone get over embarrassment so they’re tested early before it spreads — like mine did — and they can have some semblance of control over their life, that’s great. Having some power in your life is huge.”
It took another year for Bernard to find a publisher. But when the owner of Dreaming Big Publications — a cancer survivor herself – read his pitch, she was hooked. She liked his story, his optimism — and his humor.
ChemBro came out in early September. Quickly, it zoomed into Amazon’s Top 100 list of motivational/self-help new releases.
“I want people to feel the vibe, the point of the book — to find the warrior spirit inside themselves,” Bernard says. “And I want them to lead a healthy lifestyle.”
Every morning now, the newly published author walks to CrossFit to trian. He’s looking forward to the day his dojo reopens, so he teach martial arts live rather than online.
He looks forward too to returning to live music venues — the stickier the floors, the better.
Meanwhile, he’s doing his best to get his new book in the hands of people who could be inspired, or educated, by it.
“If you told me 5 years ago I’d write a book about beating cancer, while earning my 5th degree black belt — well, I wouldn’t have known I was ready for everything,” he says.
“But I was.”