Most 22-year-old men have at least one thing in common: They think they’re indestructible.
Luckily for Anthony Mastrogiulio, he put aside thoughts of indestructibility and was willing to seek the medical help that ultimately saved his life from testicular cancer.
Born in Brooklyn, Mastrogiulio attended Pre-K to fifth grade at St. Bernadette Elementary School, Dyker Heights; sixth through eighth grade at St. Ephrem Catholic Academy, Dyker Heights; and Xaverian H.S., Bay Ridge. Growing up, he played baseball, football, soccer and roller hockey — making him an all-around athlete with a bright future.
As a senior at Pace University, Manhattan, in February 2019, Mastrogiulio happened to notice a very small lump in the shower and at first thought nothing of it, since he didn’t have any pain. After two weeks, he started seeing drooping bags under his eyes and was having trouble walking up the stairs at school.
While taking his graduation photos, he saw the proofs and thought he looked sick. That same day, rather than take the stairs to class on the third floor, he took the elevator — something he never did. He knew then it was time to seek help, especially since the lump had grown significantly.
Mastrogiulio saw a urologist, who informed him that he had testicular cancer. The urologist said the rate of survival for the illness was very high, but it was time to put on his helmet and go to war.
“Being my age and the shape I was in and all the activities I was performing, it really never dawned upon me that something like this could happen,” said Mastrogiulio, now a parishioner at St. Ephrem’s and Regina Pacis, Bensonhurst.
The road to recovery was certainly not easy. After surgery to remove the affected testis, Mastrogiulio’s doctors had to perform another surgery since the cancer spread. He had 64 affected lymph nodes removed and couldn’t eat or drink for a full week.
Yet he kept hope alive and relied on his Catholic faith throughout even the darkest moments. He regained enough strength to be able to walk across the stage at Radio City Music Hall to accept his diploma during Pace’s graduation ceremony.
“God gives us the ability to make the decisions that we feel are best for us, but a lot of times, you have to just trust in your faith and trust the plan ahead of you,” he said. “There’s even a point where you have to relinquish that imaginative control that you have. Go with the plan that God has put forward for you.”
The battle was not over, as Mastrogiulio needed four rounds of chemotherapy after tumor markers and a CT scan showed a recurrence three months after graduation. Each day, he relied on his girlfriend Melissa McKenzie’s words of wisdom that “everything is going to be great” to help him find the inner strength to undergo his treatment.
Just after Thanksgiving 2019, he got the greatest news of all: He was officially cancer free. Now he’s using his story to inspire other men to take care of their health, even before issues arise.
“I always say that God has gifted me with cancer clarity,” said Mastrogiulio, who now works as a public accountant for Deloitte. “He’s given me this gift and is telling me to use it for good. I have a new perspective on things, and I’m grateful for my gift of clarity. I use that to help bring perspective to other people as well.”
Last November, Mastrogiulio raised more than $6,000 for testicular cancer research as part of the Movember movement, an annual event in which men grow mustaches during the month of November to raise awareness about men’s health issues. He engaged with local businesses and held a virtual “Jeopardy” style game night to raise the funds.
“Movember allowed me to use my experience to help somebody, and there’s no greater feeling than being able to help somebody,” he said.
Raising awareness is a yearlong venture. Mastrogiulio posts fliers and informational links on his social media accounts to continually spread important information that can make a difference. His Instagram handle is @AnthonyPMastro.
Since his diagnosis, Mastrogiulio has been on a mission to have his cancer journey serve the purpose of helping others who find themselves in the same situation. No one is ever alone in their treatment, and he’s seeking to volunteer his time to ensure those recently diagnosed know this.
He’s proud to be alive to tell his story and is making the most of the opportunity to educate the local community. Just like Melissa’s catch phrase said, everything has turned out great.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.