Older is better

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Jennifer Nassar

When Andrew Tomasello, of Little Silver, N.J. was chosen as an audience member to step on stage with Jimmy Fallon on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" in 2010, it was "one of the best days" of his life. Key word: 'was.'

"I can't say that anymore because I beat cancer," he tells me.

In 2012, Andrew, then 20, was living the life of an aspiring politician and broadcast journalist in Washington, D.C. He was elected chairman of the College Republicans at The Catholic University of America, interned at N.J. Gov. Chris Christie's office and had a job lined up at a TV station. Everything was going great until a tumor was diagnosed on his pelvis. It was deemed non-malignant, so he had non-surgical treatment to remove the tumor, and went on with his life.

When the tumor reccurred a year later, it was malignant; and Andrew received a diagnosis of osteosarcoma. That May, Andrew underwent a 10-hour surgery in which two-thirds of his pelvis was removed. "A significant part of the surgery was spent separating the tumor from his nerves so that his leg would not be paralyzed and would function, as well as his bladder and bowel," says Andrew's Orthopedic Surgical Oncologist James Wittig, chief of Orthopedic Oncology at John Theurer Cancer Center in Hackensack, N.J.

Thankfully, Andrew didn't have to undergo amputation. "In Andrew's situation, I was able to save the important nerves, blood vessels and muscles necessary for saving the leg," Wittig says. Andrew had to start treatment almost immediately following the surgery. On July 1, 2013, he had the first of his 19 rounds of chemo. His treatment also included 35 rounds of radiation. He spent the "Big 21" in the hospital due to complications from treatment. "It's ironic because I always knew I would spend my 21st birthday in the hospital sick, but I never thought it would be for chemo," he says.

Andrew spent a couple nights in the hospital for each chemotherapy treatment. During that time, he developed close friendships with his healthcare team, especially his nurses. He often posted photos on his Facebook and Instagram account of times with them.

Andrew Tomasello

Andrew Tomasello

While Andrew maintained a very optimistic spirit, he had his down times; especially in the beginning. "Yeah, I had cancer, it sucked," he says. He was saddened by having to put his life on hold; his job, school and independence--a common issue young adults with cancer face during treatment. However, the feeling was short lived. "It is hard to see anybody diagnosed with a cancer, let alone such a young man just starting college and getting his life underway," Wittig says. "He approached the entire situation very bravely."

Andrew was officially deemed in remission on April 17. "I'm 100 percent cancer–free, and it's all because of Dr. Wittig," he says. "He's the greatest man on the face of the earth."

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