Russell Smith

Russell Smith credits his 1199SEIU health benefits with helping save his life after a terminal cancer diagnosis.

Just a few years ago, Russell Smith, a Senior Billing Representative at Montefiore Medical Center, thought his life was over. He knew that cancer ran in his family, and after going to his doctor in 2016 to have a suspicious lump examined, he learned he had cancer that had spread throughout his body. But Russell wasn’t about to give in to his disease and went for a second opinion—a decision he says likely saved his life.

After undergoing additional tests and exams, Russell received the best news he could have hoped for—his condition was treatable. “My 1199SEIU benefits gave me a second chance at life; they helped me become cancer free,” he explains. “Without them, I would never have been able to get those new tests.” His benefits also covered his surgery and even paid for therapy sessions twice a week. And he continued to use his mental health benefits throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

If I can save someone from the pain I’ve endured, I’ve done my job.

Russell Smith

Senior Billing Representative, Montefiore Medical Center

As a cancer survivor, Russell was extremely cautious while working during the pandemic, knowing he was at higher risk of developing a serious case of COVID-19 if he became infected. He also didn’t want to pass the illness on to his son, Russell Jr., who lives with him. “I would suggest that everyone get vaccinated,” says Russell, who got the vaccine in the spring. “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

After all he has been through, Russell takes staying healthy very seriously. He’s changed the staples of his diet from burgers and fries to salmon and kale. He also lifts weights at the gym, walks a mile twice a day and meditates 30 minutes each day. And he’s on a mission to let others know how important healthy living can be. He even self-published a book about his experience, Tragedy into Triumph: Surviving Prostate Cancer. “If I can save someone from the pain I’ve endured, I’ve done my job,” he explains.

Looking back, Russell never realized when he started working at Montefiore 28 years ago how much his benefits would mean to him. “My benefits supported me 150 percent,” he says. “So, it’s only right that I share my story with my 1199SEIU brothers and sisters, to let them know how their benefits take care of them. I urge everyone to use their benefits, not just to stay healthy, but maybe even to save their lives.”

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 Funds at [email protected].

For Your Benefit Magazine