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Air Force Major rises up as a Warrior Games medalist

By Staff Sgt. Sheila deVera | JBER Public Affairs | August 11, 2017


Air Force Maj. Teresa Sellers, a nurse anesthetist with the 673d Surgical Operations Squadron had her military career planned out. After being assigned to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, she was ready to venture out to her next assignment.


When life throws you a curve ball you have to learn to adjust and put everything on hold. This is what Sellers, a native of Albion, Iowa, just did.


“I recently came back from my deployment, and preparing to permanently change station – I had my life planned out,” Sellers said. “I was going to Korea! I was close to getting my orders and get a nice sign-on bonus, but my situation got side-tracked from my plan.”


Sellers, started having back pain. She couldn’t figure out why and after dealing with the pain for about three weeks, she thought she had a kidney stone. She made an appointment to see a urologist, got a CT-scan, which found cancer.


“My life changed drastically,” she said. “They sent me down to the gynecologist, and the next day I had an appointment with an oncologist. The following week, I had surgery.”


Sellers said the situation was like being suddenly hit with something.


“It went by real quick,” Sellers said. “I had ovarian and endometrial cancer. I started chemotherapy for about 20 weeks. Everything was on hold, and I eventually got out of the assignment to Korea.”


Describing herself as a private person, it took a lot for her to share her story and ask for help from coworkers. There was a point when she called one of her close friends back home and told her while holding her tears at bay telling her story she doesn’t want to do this anymore.  


However, if it wasn’t for her support system and the help of co-workers, she didn’t think that she would have made it through as well as she did, which is why she believes that telling her story will help others.


“My friend came up when I got my [chemotherapy] port and helped take care of me,” the nurse anesthetist said. “Through my faith, coworkers and the Wounded Warrior Program they helped me turned around.”


With a strong support system, she was given purpose. The Air Force Wounded Warrior Program allowed her to set some goals and received additional support.


When she was initially introduced to the program, she didn’t think she belonged because, in her eyes, she only had cancer. She wasn’t hit by a roadside bomb. She had all of her limbs, and did not present any PTSD.


Her Air Force recovery care coordinator, Johnny Hernandez, said he remembers Sellers not wanting to be a part of the program.


“She was dead set against it,” Hernandez said, “I talked to her into participating in some events, and she was completely against it. She doesn’t want to be involved.”


After a while, she did learn to embrace the program and she got to talk to people who may have been in a situation like hers.


“Sellers did eventually go to one of the events,” Hernandez said. “I received a photo of her from my cell phone on a recumbent bike; she had a smile from ear to ear. She was completely impressed with the program and went to as many events as she could within a year.”


Meeting people in the program, she said she received phenomenal support from others who also have medical issues.


“When you come to one of these events, you instantly become family,” Sellers said. “There is no way around that unless you shut yourself off. With some of these people, I will be in contact with them for the rest of my life. You got your Air Force family, your job family, your immediate family and now an extended family where you belong.”


Reminiscing about her ordeal, Sellers said cancer sucks, but it was also the best thing that could have happened to her.


“I became active and had a goal to get to the Warrior Games,” Seller said. “I am one of three Pacific Air Forces members and was selected out of 120 participants in the trials to make it to the Warrior Games.”


The 2017 Department of Defense Warrior Games was hosted in Chicago from June 30 to July 8. There were approximately 265 wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans representing teams from all services to include the U.S. Special Operations Command, the United Kingdom Armed Forces and the Australian Defence Force.


Members compete in a friendly competition of archery, cycling, sitting volleyball, shooting, swimming, wheelchair basketball, and track and field.


The DoD established the Warrior Games seven years ago as a way to enhance the recovery and rehabilitation of members in the Wounded Warrior Program and to expose them to adaptive sports.


Sellers participated in the rifle, cycling and swimming category, winning five medals.


She won three gold medals in the 10-meter air rifle, 10-meter air rifle standing and 200-meter swimming freestyle; silver medal in the 50-meter breaststroke; and a bronze medal in the 50-meter swimming freestyle.


Knowing that she did well, she said she could not contain her emotions.


“When I knew I won the prone, I was like ‘Yeah!’ and pretty interesting facial expressions captured [at the games],” Sellers recalled. “The standing was a little tougher, but it was kind of cool that I beat the boys. Men and women participate together in the [events], and I beat the boys.”


Now that the Warrior Games is in her past, Sellers set a new goal of focusing on getting an invitation for the Invictus Games and to participate again in the Warrior Games.


Hernandez said Sellers finally embraced the program and now wants to be an ambassador.


“Even though her [condition] was not war related, looked fine and she was able to do her job even throughout treatment, she didn’t consider herself wounded or ill,” Hernandez said. “This program gives these individuals a sense of not what they can’t do, but what they can do. Just because you cannot see as them injured or sick, does not mean they are not.”


Sellers said she is now embracing the whole Wounded Warrior Program because of the positive experience and support system she received.


“They are a fantastic group of individuals who are going through their battles,” Sellers added. “Being involved in a support group and [other recovery] activities help you become yourself again. It’s about figuring out your life and how to heal inside and adapt what life dealt you – make lemonade.”


bronze medal gold medal JBER Maj. Sellers silver medal Warrior Games Warrior Games 2017 wounded warrior program

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