Heidi Mae Bratt
Heidi Mae Bratt

Journey Forward Begins with One Step

Snow in April was about as likely as my brother-in-law’s cancer diagnosis.

Tall and fit, with a striking resemblance to Bill Bradley, the American Hall of Fame basketball player and former New Jersey Democratic U.S. senator, Frank, my husband Jeff’s brother, got the news in late January.

We were shocked — not unlike others who never would expect a robust relative to get sick.

But like the athlete with whom he shares a likeness, Frank has taken on his treatments with a play-to-win resolve. In between his chemo appointments, Frank has kept up his running routine, his work schedule as an attorney, his gym visits, and most impressively, his positive attitude.

As for the snow in April? Yes! There was snow in April!

It was a nearly mid-month Sunday, and the mercury dipped to freezing levels. That was the morning Shaina and I had to get out of bed early to participate in a 3-mile walk for the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research. Shaina had learned of the fundraising walk while researching something else online, and it was her suggestion that we do it for Uncle Frank.

So donning hats and gloves and sweaters — was this really April? — we Starbuck-ed ourselves up, and Shaina and I headed to the start line about two miles away. There already was a sea of people. There were copious bottles of water, bagels, and orange slices set out for the participants. Upbeat music blared from the loudspeakers. People were putting on signature purple T-shirts that were handed out, and attaching bibs with the written name of the person for whom they were walking. They laced up their sneakers and did some preliminary stretches. Shaina and I snapped a selfie and texted it to Frank.

It felt like a party — almost. We met a few people we knew and got to know a few people we hadn’t. But most of all, we felt like we were doing something. Something good. Something important.

As we walked, the wind off the Hudson River blew, the sun beat down, and the phalanx marched on. Folks didn’t miss a stride as they picked up energy bars to snack and bottles of water to quench their thirst at stations set up along the way.

At the midpoint mark, many walkers stopped to take another picture. It was a Kodak moment, with the river in view and the Statue of Liberty in the distance. We journeyed back, and as we reached the finish line, there was all the hoopla of the end of a marathon with folks cheering along the sidelines.

When it was all done, we felt accomplished. And proud.

But the day wasn’t over.

At Shaina’s suggestion, we rented bicycles and rode home along the river, enjoying the vigor of being out. As we rode, we stopped to adjust something on one of the bikes, and a nearby jogger approached us. She was a young woman who noticed the purple T-shirts we were wearing, the ones that identified the Lustgarten Foundation. She explained that she just returned from Texas to visit her father, who also is battling the disease.

Then she thanked us for doing the walk.

Wow. That was unexpected. If we didn’t already feel good about what we had done, what she said to us was the cherry on top. It was the proverbial ripple of a good deed.

How would we have had that moment had we not said yes? Yes to getting out of bed early on a Sunday morning. Yes to the walk. Yes to the bicycles.

Now, most thankfully, we have very good news about Frank.

May it continue, and may the ripples of good never fade.

Wishing all a happy and kosher Passover.



About the Author
Heidi Mae Bratt is an award-winning journalist and the editor of About Our Children, the parenting magazine for the Jewish Standard.