This story originally appeared at Goodfullness.
Life doesn’t make sense to us sometimes, and it breaks our hearts. The worst things can happen to the most innocent people. When a child gets cancer, we’re struck by the unfairness and the feeling of hopelessness.
But hope often hides out in the darkest places.
That’s what photographers Lora Scantling and Christy Goodger found in 2014 when they put out an offer on Facebook to photograph children going through cancer. That call would have an ongoing impact on their lives.
At the time Scantling was watching her stepfather go through treatment for lung cancer, and she wanted to find a way to encourage others going through similar experiences.
The original Facebook call turned into a project Scantling calls “Little Heroes.” She’s photographed dozens of children who have cancer, but three precious girls from Oklahoma made a special impact. In 2014 Scantling took a photo of the girls dressed in pears and lace and hugging each other. It’s a deeply touching shot that shows the beauty of the girls and their love for each other. The photo attracted a lot of attention on the internet, and it’s easy to see why.
Scantling remembers how quickly the girls first bonded when they met each other for the photo. “They walked in and the second they saw each other they were like, ‘Hey, you don’t have any hair either. You’re going through what I’m going through,’” she remembers.
The girls, from left to right, were three-year-old Rylie Hughey, living with kidney cancer; six-year old Rheann Franklin, fighting a brain tumor; and five-year-old Ainsley Peters, who was facing leukemia. There was an instant connection. The girls would meet again, less than a year later, for another photo shoot. But this time there was something different: they were all in remission.
Scantling remembers how happy the girls were to see each other. “They were bouncing off the walls, having fun, like, ‘Oh my best friends are here,’” she said. She plans to keep photographing the girls for as long as they are interested. Rylie’s mother finds hope in Scantling’s photos: “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,” she said.
In 2018 the girls were joined by three-year-old Connor Lloyd, who’d been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Connor will be in treatment for three more years, but Scantling says he’s always happy and brave. He’s an inspiration just like Rylie, Rheann, and Ainsley.
What a beautiful way to find hope in a dark time. Thank you, Lora Scantling, for sharing the hope you saw with the world.