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Thursday, December 13 , 2018, 3:25 pm | Fair 73º


Randy Gross Takes Readers Through Personal Journey of Caring for Ill Daughter

Writing Mermaid Out of Water helped the Santa Barbara mother of five find 'strength I didn't know existed'

Life is full of twists and unexpected turns. It’s also full of opportunity for growth. In her new book, Mermaid Out of Water, freshman author Randy Gross explores the challenges and subsequent transformation that resulted from living through her daughter’s devastating illness, and speaks openly about the landslide of feelings and inter-familial chaos that accompanied the journey.

Gross is a mother of five, and her eldest daughter was diagnosed with lupus at age 16. After years of battling pain, surgeries and numerous hospital stays, she suffered a stroke in her spinal cord and became paraplegic.

“It was hard enough when she was just dealing with the lupus, but after she became paralyzed, it seemed more than we could bear — that life would always be about taking care of her and fighting the many obstacles she encountered,” Gross said.

Raised in Philadelphia, Gross traveled extensively and lived in Israel before studying veterinary technology in Denver, and later, nursing in California. Given her background as a trained caretaker, the Santa Barbara resident was uniquely positioned to traverse the health-care system as she advocated for her daughter. She learned, with time, that her instincts about the best path for her daughter’s medical care were always right and that she had to find a stronger voice to insist that her wishes were carried out.

Gross kept a journal of sorts. It began as scraps of paper with ramblings of thoughts, feelings and general impressions. She wrote about the challenges of dealing with health-care providers, about the difficulties of explaining her tribulations to family friends, and of the conflicts between her other children and her spouse. After years of writing, Gross began to see chapters taking form.

She organized her writing into a manuscript and sent it off to a series of publishers who, one by one, politely declined. But then Summerland Publishing expressed interest, and now Gross’ story is finally out in the world.

She acknowledges the difficulty of telling such a personal story. Gross leaned on her second daughter, an English major at UCLA, for editing and input to the final manuscript.

Looking back, Gross says she clearly sees her internal transformation that occurred through the experience. Through countless beach walks and hours of journaling, she fumbled through her complicated feelings.

“I found strength I didn’t know existed,” she said. “Today I also feel more confidence as I navigate my life.”

She also admits to being more protective of her children as the thought of potential tragedy echoes in her psyche.

Through her book, Gross hopes to raise awareness about the complexities of living with or caring for those who have disabilities.

“Day by day, it does get better, even if it isn’t the way you thought better would look,” said Gross, adding that all mothers are likely to relate to the book’s theme of the ongoing struggle of balancing diverse family needs, the heart-wrenching experience of watching your child in pain and the ultimate power of love.

Today, Gross’ oldest daughter is living independently, and the family has recentered and collectively moved forward.

Mermaid Out of Water is available at all major retailers, as well as locally at Chaucer’s, 3321 State St. in Santa Barbara, and Curious Cup, 929 Linden Ave. in Carpinteria. Gross said she plans to write additional books on the topics of courage and parenting.

Noozhawk contributor Jenn Kennedy can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here to see more of her work. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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