The year 2012 was a celebratory one for Atlantic Beach resident Richard Brodsky as he marked two anniversaries: surviving HIV after 15 years and brain cancer after a decade.
Brodsky had a difficult decision to make in August 1997 after he was diagnosed with HIV. “I love my wife a lot and having to tell her this was very difficult,” he said. “I had three choices; I could kill myself, but I couldn’t do that because of my three daughters, my wife and I could get a divorce and I would move out or we could stick together and work things out.”
Brodsky, a Lawrence High School graduate, met his wife of 32 years, Jodi, on a blind running date in Houston, Texas. “She was very loving and wanted it to work out,” he said.
Jodi was shocked when her husband told her he was HIV positive. “We were not so aware of how you could contract HIV, and he was my best friend,” she said. “I knew immediately that we would stay together and try to work this out.”
In 2002, Brodsky wrote a book about his relationship with his wife called, “Jodi: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told.” While on a book tour in November that year, he suffered a seizure. He was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and was told he had between two to four years to live. “It was a terribly depressing and difficult time,” Brodsky said. “But a year later I ran the New York City marathon and at a certain point I felt like I would beat this thing.”
Running, Brodsky believes, is the reason he’s in such good health. To date, he has run 39 marathons and in Oct. 2012, he ran his fastest marathon in Hartford, Conn. in four hours and six minutes. “Before I turn 65, I’d like to run a marathon in under four hours,” said the 60-year-old. “But I think I’ll do it before 65.”
Every year, for the past seven years, the Brodsky’s have been travelling to Kenya to celebrate World AIDS Day on Dec. 1. They have sponsored several orphan dinner dances for more than 4,300 orphans and run in the Kisumu World AIDS Marathon. “I love going there because it gives me a good feeling and the orphans enjoy seeing us,” he said. “If I wasn’t doing this, I don’t know if I’d be alive. It gives me a sense of purpose.”
Garden City-based pediatrician Dr. Richard Satori has been travelling to Africa with the Brodsky’s for the past two years and has helped more than 130 children in two of the country’s orphanages. “We bought medication to help treat the children,” he said. “I felt there was a need and if there was something I could do to make a dent, I was going to do it. I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t change the world but I felt that we as individuals could make a dent.”
Following a suggestion from his brain oncologist, Brodsky established the Richard M. Brodsky Foundation in 2004 to help raise awareness about HIV testing and to serve as hope for others those living with HIV and cancer. The foundation has raised about $180,000 since its inception and has provided financial assistance to several local organizations such as the Five Towns Community Chest and 1 in 9 Hewlett House as well as hosted several running events each year throughout Nassau County, including in Cedar Creek Park in Seaford and Oceanside Park. “We need to continue to raise awareness so people get tested for HIV,” he said. “And I just want to be able to donate more money when we can.”
Despite the challenges he has faced in his life, Brodsky said he is grateful. “I’m very fortunate to have a loving wife and it feels great to be able to help people,” he said. “It feels like a million dollars to still be living and I cherish each day.”
Jodi hopes her husband’s foundation will continue to flourish and that he remains healthy. She is also looking forward to running in the ING Miami Marathon on Jan. 27. “Running has been a big part of our lives and I think Richard’s good health is attributed to his being able to feel that he is helping others,” she said. “We live our lives that it’s not a question as to whether the glass is half full or half empty; for us it is overflowing.”
For information on Brodsky’s foundation and how to help, visit www.richardmbrodsky.org