Going to bat to strike out lung cancer

For the second consecutive year, New York Methodist Hospital (NYM) and the Fred L. Mazzilli Foundation attempted to strike out lung cancer. Last month, the Park Slope-based hospital held its second annual Lung Cancer Screening Awareness Day. Attendees received free lung function screenings, other medical services, giveaways, an informative lecture regarding the fatal disease and a chance to meet Fred’s brother, former MLB All-Star New York Met and Yankee Lee Mazzilli.

“The turnout is phenomenal considering how miserable it is outside,” Mazzilli said. “It means we’re making progress every year. That’s the most important thing. Spreading awareness of the screening is the big thing.” Fred died of lung cancer in 2012.

Throughout Fred’s time at NYM, Dr. Anthony Saleh treated him. The Mazzilli family was grateful to have Saleh take care of Fred once he was diagnosed.

“Dr. Saleh is just a great man,” said Mazzilli. “He’s a special human being and this hospital is very lucky to have him. He was the best to my brother. He’s a doctor with tremendous bedside manner. He cares about the families affected.”

The feeling was mutual, as Saleh expressed nothing but fond memories of his brief time with Fred. “When I met Fred, I was impressed by his common decency,” he said. “He had such a respect for people.”

During the lecture portion of the event, Saleh discussed the dangers of lung cancer and how patients need to get screened earlier so the disease can be caught in an early stage. But he also shared stories of how Fred taught him invaluable lessons that the doctor still benefits from to this day.

“I was starting to look at colleges with my daughter. I wanted her to go to Boston because it’s closer than Wisconsin. I was imposing my will,” Saleh said. “Fred looked at me once when I was on the phone with her and he said to let her go where she wants to go. He said she was a smart kid. She’ll figure it out.”

Saleh is happy he took Fred’s advice. “I can only tell you it brings tears to my eyes to see how happy she is in Wisconsin and I owe that to Fred to this day. That’s the kind of advice that lasts a lifetime.”

Another story the doctor shared was the strength and determination Fred possessed even during his last couple of months of his life. “In August 2012, Fred had been diagnosed with lung cancer and wasn’t doing well,” Saleh recalled. “The ravages of disease were starting to take over and we knew we didn’t have much time he had.”

However, Fred was determined to attend the wedding of his niece Amanda, despite his condition. “Through the great help of his family, he made it through the wedding which as a beautiful affair and probably the last big family event that they were able to share,” Saleh went on. “His iron will made him go to that wedding.”

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