Each Year These Childhood Cancer Survivors Take a New Photo to Show the World Their Strength
Each year, three childhood cancer survivors come together to take a picture, not just because they are friends, but to remind themselves — and the world — how strong they are.
In 2014, young Rylie, Rheann, and Ainsley — 3, 6, and 4 years old at the time, respectively — came together for a shoot for photographer Lora Scantling. At the time, Scantling was having her own brush with cancer, as her stepdad was losing his fight to lung cancer, she told the Huffington Post.
“I wanted to get to do something that spoke a thousand words that would draw attention…I chose childhood cancer because I also have a friend who had lost her little boy to cancer a few years before that,” Scantling explained to the Huffington Post. “I put a post out on Facebook seeking little girls who were fighting cancer, and the portrait was born!”
Rylie, Rheann, and Ainsley had never met before, but reportedly became fast friends. After the first 2014 photo went viral, Scantling told People she was inundated with questions asking about the girls’ health. She decided then she would do the photos every year as long as the girls wanted. Now, their latest photo shows the girls smiling and — most importantly — being healthy and cancer-free.
“They’re inspiring to so many that I’m happy to keep taking photos for the rest of their lives,” Scantling told People. “Besides an annual photo shoot, I’d love to take pictures of their high school graduations, their weddings, all of their biggest milestones. To have them all alive and doing well is wonderful. It’s like they’re family now.”
And the mothers of the girls couldn’t be happier to see their young kids helping to inspire others.
“For people who haven’t experienced it,” Rheann’s mother, Valerie Franklin, told People, “cancer is hard to understand. But through Lora’s photos and the girls’ Facebook pages, we’ve been able to share our good days and bad days, and let people see how cancer can affect a ‘normal’ family.”
The three girls have come a long way in the three years since the first photo was taken, as Ainsley has been successfully treated for leukemia, Rylie has overcome kidney cancer, and Rheann has beaten a rare form of brain cancer.
“If I had to sum up Lora’s photos in one word, it would be ‘hope,’” Rylie’s mother, Bridget Hughey, told People. “It means so much to our family, because when I look at that photo, I know we’re not alone. Strength comes in numbers, and I hope that another family in the middle of a battle with cancer can look at the photo and be inspired. If these three little girls can kick cancer, then so can other kids.”
The American Cancer Society estimates that over 10,000 children under the age of 15 were diagnosed with childhood cancer in 2016. Research shows childhood cancer rates have been slightly, but steadily rising over the last few decades.