In times of turmoil, a man often feels like he is supposed to be strong and know what to do. When his wife faces a breast cancer diagnosis, he instead may feel caught in a hurricane with no idea of what to do next.
Helping those men, and the women who love them, is what inspired Ken Churilla, of Highland, to write “No one said it would be easy: A husband’s journey through his wife’s battle with breast cancer.”
With its first person account, through a man’s eyes, the book has done just that by helping readers across the United States.
“This has always been a dream of mine,” Churilla said. “Not only to write a book but to do something really impactful to people...there’s no bigger reward.”
The book, which is based on a true story, is told through the eyes of Tommy, a man whose wife has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Readers experience everything with him, both medical and physical and see how he reacts to the various experiences and situations at home, at work, in his mind and in his private time.
“For guys who are reading this, whatever point they are in their own journey, it either can give them a heads up as to what’s coming down the road and how this guy handled that,” Churilla said. “Then they can make their own decisions. They have some kind of a situation to base what might be right, what might be wrong.
For guys who have already been through it, it’s a way to look back and measure up what they did vs. what Tommy did.”
While the character in the book tries to escape the situation by going to the bar, a friend of Churilla who read the book recognized he was doing the same thing by excessively visiting the gym.
“When you don’t know what’s coming, you just react. This gives them a guideline in a sense. It’s like watching game tape for a football player. You have the same opponent as Tommy does. Some things will be different but it will give you a general feel and how Tommy attacked it and handled it.”
Churilla said when it comes to breast cancer, the focus goes to the woman and rightfully so because she is the one fighting for her life. If there are kids involved, focus goes to them.
“No matter where you look, there’s really not a lot paid attention to the guy attached to them. And guys don’t like to talk. They’ll talk about football, baseball and the Blackhawks all day but when it comes to really talking about things, they don’t like to talk,” he said. They typically shy away from therapy and support groups. Reading the book has been a source of help for them.
Churilla said he’s surprised by the amount of women who have reached out to him regarding the book.
“It’s truly impacted women with their understanding of what their husband or boyfriend or children went through. These women who have told me about it, it’s altered the way they approach things. They make a more conscious effort to communicate everything.”
The book explores a man’s psyche and tackles topics such as loneliness, paying bills, intimacy, raising kids and the transformation of power in the house.
“In the book, they have well defined roles. He works. She takes care of kids,” Churilla said. “He had to take on more of that responsibility as she became more ill. There are things you don’t think about.”
Churilla, a 1990 Highland High School grad, currently works as the director of marketing for Balmoral Park Race Track in Crete. He was first published at age 16 and as a career journalist, his work has appeared in nationwide magazines and newspapers. He is also a Nashville songwriter and has authored media kit artist biographies for artists such as Kenny Chesney, George Strait, Martina McBride and more.
This is Churilla’s first book, and it took many years to write, he said. “Sometimes real life gets in the way, running around between work and being a single dad, running my son to football practice and school. It definitely took quite some time but it’s been worth every inch of it.”
The book can be ordered through any major online retailer, including amazon.com, booksamillion.com, barnesandnoble.com.
Churilla’s cousin Alan J. Carper recommended reading the book if you or someone you know is fighting cancer. Even as an outsider, it helps understand how it can affect a family’s everyday life. Carper, who is a 2001 Lake Central High School grad and a senior medical physicist, said not to be fooled by the book’s cover. It is for both men and women. “This book provides an excellent window into a man’s life as he experiences the highs and lows of his family’s journey throughout their battle with cancer.”