For the sixth year in a row, three young girls have joined together to re-enact a powerful photo first went viral while they were all facing childhood cancer treatments in 2014.
[Eleven]-year-old Rheann Franklin, 9-year-old Ainsley Peters, and 8-year-old Rylie Hughey, first met five years ago while they were all being treated for childhood cancer.
In the years since Oklahoma photographer, Lora Scantling, first captured the heartwarming photo, the girls have all beaten cancer and now live healthy, happy, cancer-free lives. Still, they’ve come together every year to re-enact the photo that first brought them together.
The annual reunion is an exciting time for all three girls and serves as an inspiration to other children who are in the thick of their cancer journey.
“This project has been amazing,” Scantling told TODAY. “I get some of the most heartwarming messages about people who come across the photo online and tell me about how it has helped them or someone they know through a dark time in their life.
“I don’t think these girls will ever understand just how powerful a simple picture of the three of them hugging has been.”
And while the girls are now thriving, the effects of childhood cancer will always be with them.
Rheann, for example, will always be bald as a result of the intense radiation to her skull during treatments. Her eyes droop slightly from the way the tumor sat on her brain stem, and she’s currently undergoing a growth hormone treatment to help her continue to develop. She’s shot up four inches in the last year.
Rylie had to have one kidney removed along with a portion of the other during her treatment for stage 4 bilateral Wilms tumors when she was 2 years old. Now an active second grader, Rylie enjoys participating in dance, gymnastics, and softball.
“The most precious thing that has come from this is watching Rylie’s faith grow and mature, and watching her have so much love in her heart for everyone around her,” Rylie’s mother, Bridget Hughey, said.
Ainsley still goes in for checkups cancer screenings twice a year and remains cancer-free as she celebrates her 10th birthday on May 7. Her parents say she loves singing, reading, riding bikes, and spending time with her brother and friends.
The girls have developed a unique and unbreakable bond through the years of coming together for this annual photo shoot.
This year, the girls were once again joined by 4-year-old Connor Lloyd, who first made his cancer-fighting debut in last year’s annual portrait. Connor is currently being treated for acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
His ongoing treatment includes monthly chemotherapy treatments at a clinic and has daily chemotherapy treatments administered at home. He is expected to continue treatment until 2021 and has already endured 49 rounds of chemotherapy in his short little life.
“It means a lot for our family to help raise awareness for childhood cancer, and we felt Connor joining the shoot last year would show that while the girls are doing great, every day new kids are diagnosed,” Connor’s parents said. “Childhood cancer is not as rare as people may believe and could happen to anyone at any time unexpectedly.
They hope to raise continued awareness and say they are grateful that Connor has been able to join Scantling’s annual shoot.