Photographer Lora Scantling has captured the girls every year since 2014
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 memorable photo shoot.
In March 2014, photographers Lora Scantling and Christy Goodger took a very special photo of three little girls from Oklahoma. Rheann Franklin, now 9, Ainsley Peters, now 7, and Rylie Hughey, now 6, were all hugging one another tightly with their eyes closed, showing support in their mutual fight against cancer.
The photo quickly went viral and made headlines across the globe.
“The original photo was inspired because my step dad was losing his battle to lung cancer, photographer Scantling explained to Good Housekeeping magazine. “I wanted to do something that would make a difference / speak a thousand words and decided to do childhood cancer because I also have a friend who had lost her baby boy to cancer.”
A year later, Scantling recreated the photo to celebrate the fact that all three girls were in remission. This time, their eyes were open, to symbolise that they were looking ahead to a bright future.
The youngsters 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. Rheann is cancer free but unfortunately, her hair will not grow because extensive radiation treatment burned her hair follicles and her eyes will always droop because of the way the tumor sat on her brain stem.
The shoot is an annual tradition that Scantling plans to continue throughout their lives so they can document their joint inspirational journey.
Scantling explained: “We love being able to do them each year because it gets people talking about childhood cancer awareness and is getting it more attention, which is desperately needed.”
The girls have remained close since first coming together, helping raise one another’s spirits during tough times.