SAN DIEGO – She calls herself a “survivor and a thriver”, and now a longtime Chicago News executive hopes to help families coping with illness do the same.
Phyllis Schwartz’s new children’s book “When Mom Feels Great, Then We Do Too!” was published this past Friday.
The semi-autobiographical book is about an extended family helping a sick mom feel better using humor and fun.
Schwartz has survived three bouts of cancer and believes her spirit and sense of humor helped her “kick cancer’s butt over the years”.
“My inspiration for the book came from my own experience. I was in Chicago when I had Hodgkins. I came out to San Diego to run a station out here and the radiation from the Hodgkins gave me breast cancer and I had a double mastectomy. And then totally unrelated a few years ago, I got pancreatic cancer,” said Schwartz. “I think what put me over the top so that I could survive decades, was this healing, family, humor, fun, helping, even with the kids contributing. And that’s what the book is about.”
Schwartz’s goal is to add some fun and positivity to a stressful and often sad time for families.
In most situations where a parent is sick or hurt, children often feel scared and overwhelmed. Many of them want to help but don’t know how, and Schwartz hopes the book will jumpstart discussions within families on ways kids can offer support if someone does get sick.
Schwartz doesn’t mention cancer in her book but does write “They took out some bumps…”. She purposely did that because she says her message applies to other health issues as well.
“Often parents might be whispering in a room about it or not telling everybody the whole story, and kids are like I don’t know what’s going on. I’m scared for mom or dad or my sibling, and what I’m trying to do is foster an environment for families where the kids can contribute and can feel strong and good about it,” said Schwartz.
She encourages people to check on others to see if they can run an errand for them or if they need anything, and wants people to know that helping someone out can go a long way.
“I know from my experience, that just the gesture of suggesting you’re going to help or asking if you can help… I found that really helpful,” said Schwartz. “It’s like these guys care. Even all the way down to the little ones.”
Schwartz currently lives outside of San Diego but lived in Chicago for twenty years where she was a top executive at three television stations in town.
During that time, she often wrote poetry at night to de-stress or blow off steam, and one of those poems is the basis for her book.
She has three other poems that she’s in the process of turning into children’s books, with other poems posted on her website.
The Backstory on the wieners and asparagus recipe in the book
Schwartz is also tickled at the reaction to the wieners and asparagus dinner the children make with the dad in the book. The recipe for the meal is included in the back, and Schwartz said many people are surprised to find out it is a real dish.
“I do not cook. I’m not good at cooking. I practically failed chemistry in high school so I’m really not good at measuring,” said Schwartz. “The recipe is my husband’s family recipe and I love it. So, when I was writing the poem, it just seemed natural that the kids, to make me feel good, they would help dad make this recipe that’s very kid-friendly, and it taste delicious.”
Schwartz and her family visit Chicago once a year and she plans to return to Chicago in the spring or summer of 2023, with a possible book signing in the city around Mother’s Day.
Schwartz reflects on Chicago
You can hear more about Schwartz’s inspiration for writing the book, learn more about the backstory for the wieners and asparagus recipe, plus find out if she misses living in Chicago in the videos above.