Older is better

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.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." It was just as beneficial for Wittig. "Personally, I gain such an incredible amount of fulfillment from taking care of such a brave young person and being presented with one of the largest most challenging limb-sparing surgeries and having a perfect outcome in an immensely positive and grateful patient. I will have the delight to watch Andrew finish college, lead a productive life and grow old with a great quality of life," he says.On July 29, Andrew was able to have a "cancer-free" birthday. He was thrilled not to just make up for his 21st, but to be able to celebrate more birthdays. He was set to make "22 the new 21" with his hashtag #Andrews22. He admits that he, at first, was in denial about getting older, but now he embraces it.Can cancer be glamorized?When Andrew and I discussed the movie "The Fault in Our Stars" (TFIOS) and he says that while it wasn't the perfect portrayal of cancer, it's very eye-opening. He says the problem with cancer portrayal in today's storytelling is "throwing cancer into the story just for the sake of having cancer," especially with love stories. That can be misleading, he says. TFIOS "wasn't a love story that someone threw in cancer." It's a cancer story from the beginning.Wittig says that cancer in storytelling gives young patients "courage and positivity." He says it "brings a public awareness about sarcomas and childhood cancers. It shows young adults that they can lead a normal productive life despite being stricken by such a difficult disease and that this can be overcome just like any other obstacle."TFIOS best relates to Andrew's story and the person he is. He jokingly tells people that he's just like Augustus Waters. They both had the same cancer and prospective. "The only difference is I lived and didn't lose a leg," he says. He also makes subtle jokes, like Waters. Watch this video and see for yourself.Wittig says one important thing young adult cancer patients can learn from Andrew is "how to make the best of a tough situation." "There were many times when Andrew was in the hospital receiving chemotherapy and posting Facebook updates with smiling and laughing photos with his nurses," he says.Andrew offers three bits of advice for young adults battling cancer. 1) It gets better. Just take it one day at a time.

2) You won't see it now, but you'll be a better person in the end.

3) Watch plenty of Netflix.Jennifer Nassar is the senior editorial intern at CURE magazine. She is a second-year graduate student at the University of North Texas and a 2013 graduate of the University of Mississippi.