Chris Benyo and Denise DiMarzo were married in June of 2010, and less than six months later Denise was diagnosed with ALS. After battling the disease for over five years, she died on July 23, 2016.
“ALS is ugly. There’s nothing nice about ALS,” said Chris. “But she never used that as an excuse to get in a bad mood or to blame others or God or anything, and to me that’s just amazing. That’s why when she said ‘we need to write a book,’ that we had to. Obviously I would like to be right next to her writing it, unfortunately it didn’t work out that way.”
But thanks to the blog Denise kept throughout her illness, she was able to be a co-author of sorts as Chris wrote the book “All In: Living Not Dying With ALS: A Journey of Faith” in part based on Denise’s writings.
“She started immediately when she was diagnosed and she wrote right up until literally several months until she passed away,” explained Chris. “I would write a response to the blog or talk about my part of being a caregiver, and going from a husband to a caregiver, which is two totally different things.”
Chris began writing the book a year ago, and had the manuscript completed in under six months.
“Honestly I didn’t sleep a lot after Denise passed away because it’s different so I was up all the time, so I thought I may as well do something worthwhile and that’s when I really started writing the book,” said Chris.
The chapters are based on Denise’s entries, ranging from lighter subjects like her dogs Sally and Blue, to heavier topics like what she missed about life before ALS.
“This was a lot of therapy for me. It was good therapy to be writing about our life and all the things we accomplished,” said Chris. “There was a lot of tears shed while I was writing.”
The book also details their shared love of running, as the pair completed almost ten marathons together, with Chris pushing Denise in a specially designed jogger.
Chris explained, “it was hard to write about that, because from pushing the person you’re married to then my last two marathons I did I was pushing an empty chair. It was hard to write about that and remember that.”
And while the writing process may have been difficult at times, Chris believes it was all worth it if the book helps even one person dealing with a difficult situation.
His book is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Anderson’s Bookshop here in Naperville.
Naperville News 17’s Evan Summers reports.
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