Nick Aiello is a comedian, producer, actor, writer, and testicular cancer survivor. As many young cancer thrivers and survivors know, cancer doesn’t discriminate when it comes to sex, age, or profession. Even the most impeccable sense of humor can’t overcome the physical and emotional toll of treatment and recovery.
ICYMI: we went live on Instagram with Nick in June as part of our Thriver Thursday series — check out the convo here!
Nick’s Cancer Story
One day in 2013, Nick had a shooting pain in his abdomen, which he thought was appendicitis or a bad hangover. After a nurse friend recommended—and accompanied—him to the ER, the doctors said it was probably either torsion (when a testicle gets twisted, requiring surgery) or gonorrhea (need IV with antibiotics).
Hoping for a gonorrhea diagnosis (when else does that happen?!), Nick was unexpectedly told it was cancer. Luckily, the tumor had hit a nerve to cause the pain – which is rare – so they could schedule surgery for the following week.
After the surgery was complete, Nick went out to dinner with his friends and family to celebrate, which “might have jinxed it,” he said. At dinner, he got a call from his oncologist recommending that he start chemo the following week. “My mom saw my face drop from 20 feet away.”
Comedic Relief While Riding the Struggle Bus
Faced with nine weeks of chemo treatment, Nick thought he’d be the first improviser to do a set while going through chemo, but unfortunately that did not pan out, as the treatment wore him down too much. He ended up writing a lot during that time, creating jokes to use later when he was open to sharing. “That was a good way to approach going through it,” he said. There was a lot of interesting content from being 28 in an oncology center, as you can imagine. “For example, hearing old men ask him ‘what are you in for’ like someone might be at a prison, or having to give your parents a meet up time for when you're done with sperm banking,” he jokes.
During his treatment, Nick met our bud and fellow testicular cancer survivor, Jonny Imerman, and they befriended one another. Nick was matched with a mentor angel through Jonny’s organization, Imerman Angels, and joined a mindfulness support group as part of a study at Northwestern.
But even with comedy and angels by his side, recovery was difficult. His survivor’s guilt was heavy.
“The biggest hurdle of recovery was the mental one – getting back into it with friends and society.”
Even as a public figure and comedian, Nick wasn’t initially open about his experience. “I was so worried about people judging me for being sad after beating cancer.”
Nick said cancer ultimately helped him think more intentionally about how he spends time, creating a greater appreciation for family and friends. He hopes to bring more awareness to the mental struggles that are common once treatment is over.
Let’s get to know him better!
Fun Facts About Nick
1. He performed in front of Lorne Michaels (sadly did not make it on Saturday Night Live).
2. He was impeached as student council president in 8th grade during a history project reenacting the Clinton impeachment trial.
3. His sister nominated him for ABC's The Bachelorette during JoJo’s season, but he turned it down (hear the full story in the IG Live!).
Activities that bring joy:
Making art (art therapy FTW)
Playing guitar and harmonica
Going to concerts, baseball games, and museums
Nick was fortunate to have ample support from family and friends throughout his diagnosis, treatment, and recovery process. He’s incredibly thankful to his nurse practitioners Moira Morphew and Terry Gallagher, his parents Jill and Mike, and his sister and brother-in-law (Alysse and Steve).
“My favorite conversations were when people did not try to make me feel better. I loved when I would tell someone what I was going through and how I felt and they said, ‘Well, that sucks!’ I also enjoyed being invited to things even though I couldn't go. It made me feel like I was still in the loop with friends.”
Check out his recent work on his IMDb profile, including the critically acclaimed new film he co-produced, “Monuments,” here.