Marlowe Smith and Jesse Cruz of Montefiore Medical Center

Marlowe Smith’s health scare led to a friendship with fellow member Jesse Cruz, and the two have been staying strong and fit together ever since.

About a year and a half ago, at the age of 28, Marlowe Smith had an infection in his esophagus that made it difficult to swallow, eat and perform his daily duties as a Dietary Supply Worker at Montefiore Medical Center. After a few weeks, his condition worsened, and he went to his primary care doctor and learned that he had also developed pneumonia. “It was quite a scare,” Marlowe said. “But I knew that because of my healthcare benefits, I wouldn’t have to worry about the finances, which reduced the stress and helped me focus on healing.”

The infection in his esophagus required that he maintain a liquid diet for four months, and Marlowe lost almost 50 pounds, leaving him weakened and worried about his health. Throughout the ordeal, he talked with co-worker Jesse Cruz, also a Dietary Supply Worker, about his anxiety over the dramatic weight loss, and the two became friends. At the end of the four months, Marlowe’s pneumonia was treated, the infection eventually cleared, and his doctor told him he could resume his normal eating habits. Jesse encouraged Marlowe to start working out with him, and Marlowe took him up on the offer.

Today, Marlowe is a fit and muscular 200 pounds, and he still works out with Jesse three or four times a week. For his part, Jesse—who is 37 years old and the father of 8-year-old and 6-month-old daughters—said that helping Marlowe motivated him to make more time for exercise as well. Jesse had maintained an active lifestyle after playing sports in high school and entering the workforce. But when he began working full time at Montefiore shortly after he and his girlfriend had their first child, he began to slack off a bit. “With a newborn, I stopped lifting weights at the gym and eventually stopped working out altogether for a while,” he said. “I gained some weight, couldn’t run as well as I had been able to and just generally had less energy.”

Eventually, Jesse found his way back into a routine and had been working out regularly again when he saw Marlowe struggling with his health issues. Fortunately, they had similar schedules, so they started an exercise regimen together at a nearby park and at the local gym. Both said that having a partner is helpful in many ways: to stay motivated on days when one of them doesn’t feel like working out, to push each other when they’re lifting weights or running together, and to help each other remain committed to another component of healthy living—a balanced and nutritious diet.

Both Marlowe and Jesse confessed to having a sweet tooth and said they had to make dietary changes and watch portion sizes much more carefully as they’ve gotten older. Jesse said he almost never eats fast food or junk food anymore but allows himself one day a week to indulge in something sweet, like a few chocolate chip cookies. Marlowe said he’s nearly eliminated soda and drinks lots of water. He also counts calories every day, has made the switch from white to whole-wheat bread and has stopped snacking late at night. But, he said, these changes would not have been possible without the support of his friend. “Having a partner helps me stay motivated even when we’re not together,” Marlowe said. “So I can skip that snack, have a nice cold glass of water and not feel guilty or sluggish at our next workout.”

What Do Your Benefits Mean to You?

You count on your health benefits to support you in your efforts to stay healthy, whether it’s by getting regular checkups, keeping a chronic condition under control or just improving your lifestyle in general. But has there ever been a time when your health coverage literally saved your life or the life of a loved one? If so, we’d like to hear from you. To share your story with your fellow members in an upcoming issue of For Your Benefit, please contact the Fund at Communications@1199Funds.org.

Oliveen Cowans-Mitchell

Oliveen Cowans-Mitchell

Faced with an increased risk of diabetes, Oliveen Cowans-Mitchell got her health back on track with the help of her Benefit Fund.

Marcella Smart

Marcella Smart

Marcella Smart credits her benefits with protecting her health, and our wellness workshops with helping her maintain a healthy weight.

Wanda Santiago

Wanda Santiago

After being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, Wanda Santiago has lost more than 30 pounds through healthier eating and exercise habits, which is helping keep her condition under control.

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