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Alberta mom pens best-selling book about her son's disappearance

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The mother of a Beaumont man who has been missing for more than four years has written a book about her family’s experience.

Ryan Shtuka was last seen leaving a house party in Sun Peaks, B.C., on Feb. 17, 2018. He was 19. 

His mother Heather says the book, Missing From Me, started as a series of online posts after Ryan went missing and his family travelled to Sun Peaks to search for him.

“I was just recovering from a torn Achilles, so I wasn’t able to go out physically searching. As a parent, when you have your partner out searching every day, you just sort of feel like there’s not much you can do. I felt helpless,” she told CTV News Edmonton.

“I wanted Ryan to be known. I wanted people to know it was more than just a missing child. I wanted to have more than just attributes saying he was loyal and handsome and funny, I wanted him to be real.”

Ryan Shtuka is seen in photos released by RCMP. Supplied.

She sat down and wrote the book from the posts during the pandemic.

“COVID hit and we had months and months of being at home, and she had all this time, and she really put pen to paper, and it really took off,” said Ryan’s dad Scott.

The book has become a bestseller, but Heather says it’s bittersweet.

“I’m humbled and incredibly overwhelmed by the amount of attention its received thus far.

“At the end of the day it’s hard to celebrate anything that comes from it, except maybe an awareness piece, because it’s always born on the brunt of Ryan’s tragedy.”

The couple hopes families going through a tragedy can take solace from the book, knowing they’re not alone.

“People can look at our beginning, and our middle, and for now there is no end for us, to see as they are beginning their own journey that there is ways to navigate,” Heather said. “We’re not saying that anything we have done is the be-all-end-all of how you would approach a missing person, but it brings awareness to other people.”

The book is available on Amazon, Chapters, and other major booksellers.

Since Ryan’s disappearance, Heather has also co-founded a non-profit organization called Freebird Project to help families with support and resources when a loved one goes missing.

She hopes the book and the non-profit serve as a legacy for Ryan.

“In his absence I felt honour-bound maybe to make sure I could preserve it in some way, so long after Scott and I have left this earth there will be a record of Ryan and people will be able to read his story and know how much he is loved and how much he matters.” 

With files from CTV News Edmonton's David Ewasuk.

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