May 27, 2011
BY SUSAN VARGHESE
Standard Associate Editor
In 1997, Atlantic Beach resident Richard Brodsky was diagnosed with HIV. Five years later, he found out he had brain cancer and was told he only had a few years to live. But, Brodsky is more alive than ever, and noted that he wouldn’t have made it without the two loves of his life, his wife and running.
“Running on the boardwalk…It’s like you can see forever and you feel free. You get in a euphoric state,” Brodsky said, sipping his chamomile tea. “The HIV hasn’t really been a problem. But, the brain cancer… I have to take naps. I get headaches. Little things don’t bother me, but the big things get to me. I don’t like loud noises and when you’re in a house with three girls… well…” Brodsky joked.
Brodsky was born in Brooklyn in 1957 and eventually settled in Atlantic Beach with his family. He’s a father to three daughters, and a husband to his wife, Jodi.
The 31 years of marriage haven’t always been easy for Brodsky and Jodi, especially when he was first diagnosed. “I had just come from getting the diagnosis that I was HIV positive and I realized I had to tell my wife,” Brodsky added, his brown eyes framed by thin black glasses, looking away. “ I remember walking back on a long city block, and I was wishing a car would run me over. I could hardly bring myself to tell her and it was very, very difficult on her…but she chose to continue with our marriage.”
In 2002, Brodsky self-published a tell-all book and dedicated it to his wife. It was titled, Jodi, The Greatest Love Story Ever Told.
Jodi refers to Brodsky as her best friend, and recalled the criticism she received for the couple’s decision to go public with his HIV in the book. “I was devastated when I found out his diagnosis, but nobody knows what they would ever do if it was their husband or their family,” Jodi said candidly. “It wasn’t a choice for anyone but myself. Don’t say anything until you walk in my shoes.”
She added, “We take a bad situation, we get lemons, and we make lemonade – instead of feeling sorry for ourselves. We feel like we’re blessed that he can live with two illnesses.”
Brodsky started the Richard Brodsky Foundation in 2005 to spread AIDS awareness and help others, but as he has discovered, it’s helped him the most. “I don’t know it just really keeps me going… I don’t have time to worry about my health.”
The foundation has sponsored six World AIDS marathons in Kenya, and six 5K AIDS and cancer walks in America. Brodsky is currently working on the next 5K AIDS Cancer Run, which will be held on June 12, 2011, in Cedar Creek Park in Seaford. The proceeds will go to the center for research and AIDS treatment at North Shore University Hospital.
Before fighting for AIDS, HIV, and brain cancer awareness, Brodsky was a successful architect leading an average life. “We used to have a better standard of living; my daughters all went to sleep away camps, they had tennis lessons, ice-skating, and my wife didn’t work. They had a very privileged upbringing and now my wife went back to work and I work on the foundation.” Although he spends his days on the foundation, Brodsky noted there are some invaluable perks, like having traveled to Kenya six times.
Brodsky recalled one instance running in Africa, when he received some unexpected inspiration. “This four or five year old kid was running barefoot with me on these really bumpy roads for like eight miles, so, I thought, ‘how am I going to quit when he’s still running?’”
On a local level, in 2010, the foundation donated toiletry and gift items to people living with HIV or cancer at area organizations such as Thursday’s Child, the Hewlett House, JCC Food Pantry of the Greater Five Towns, Congregation Sons of Israel, Long Island Minority AIDS Coalition, Circulo de la Hispanidad, Don Monti Cancer Center at North Shore University Hospital, and the Five Towns Community Center AIDS Service Programs.
“I didn’t want to become HIV positive. I guess if I were smarter and more aware on how to avoid it…I would have avoided it,” Brodsky said. “Once you have something like this, you just have to do whatever you can to help other people because you can’t change it. It definitely has shaped my life. “
To learn more about the foundation, the run, or to donate, visit www.richardmbrodsky.org or contact the foundation at (516) 770-7724.
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