This distinguished gentleman is my great-nephew Jude, the only child of my niece, Hannah, and her husband, Sully. Jude is a Rhizo kid which means he was born with a lethal form of skeletal dysplasia known as RCDP (Rhizomelic Chondrodysplasia Punctata).

Since entering the world in 2014, much of his life has been spent under the harsh fluorescent lights of neonatal care units, ever bracing for the next IV, the next seizure, the next operation. At age three, Jude has endured more pain than most of us will experience in a lifetime. His journey has certainly put my own hardships and struggles in perspective.

Because of the rarity of RCDP โ€“ fewer than 100 known cases worldwide โ€“ Rhizo kids and their families suffer mostly in silence, with astronomical hospital bills and little or no support from charitable organizations, their voices lost in the shuffle of more prevalent diseases such as cancer.

Sticks & Stones is now available on Amazon. If you purchase Sticks & Stones in any format, 100 percent of the profits will go to Jude. To learn more about Rhizo kids, please visit