Three-year-old Connor Lloyd was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia last year. He joined three young cancer survivors for a photo shoot to draw attention to kids who are fighting cancer.
Since 2014, Oklahoma-based family photographer Lora Scantling has photographed three young cancer survivors. Initially, the project started out to draw attention to the many young children who are bravely battling cancer and it has now evolved to celebrate the fact that the three young girls are in remission and cancer-free.
This year, however, Rheann Franklin, now 10, Ainsley Peters, now 8 and Rylie Hughey, 7, were joined by a new friend, three-year-old Connor Lloyd, who was recently diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Having photographed Connor’s family for six years, Scantling was saddened to hear of his cancer diagnosis and offered to take photos of him at her studio in Yukon, Oklahoma.
“Before our son was diagnosed, we didn’t think this could happen to us,” Connor’s mom Leah Lloyd told People magazine.
“We’re now hoping to increase research and document Connor’s story so that when he’s older he can look back and know where he came from.”
Scantling first met the three girls in 2014 when she offered on Facebook to do a special photo shoot for little girls who had been diagnosed with cancer. Although Rheann, Ainsley and Rylie didn’t know each other beforehand, the three girls became a viral sensation with thanks to their incredible, brave portrait drawing attention to the children around the world fighting cancer.
“They’re all doing well and are happy and full of life,” Scantling told People.
“They’re like family now and I hope to keep taking photos of all their biggest milestones for the rest of their lives.”
She decided to include Connor in this year’s photograph, however, as “people have kind of forgotten what the original purpose of the picture was for — to draw attention to kids who are fighting cancer.
“Connor will be in treatment for another three years, and yet he’s always so happy and brave. Just like the girls, he’s an inspiration.
“Connor is responding well to treatment and is doing much better than anyone expected and we’re hoping that will continue,” Scantling added.
Read more: How U2 helped me beat my cancer
“Seeing him laughing and smiling with the girls melted my heart. I’ll keep taking this photo every year for as long as they want me to. They’re inspiring to all of us.”
Since the first shoot in 2014, the girls have returned each year to celebrate their progress and to look back on how far they’ve come.
And they were eager to help Connor settle in when he first arrived, singing “You Are My Sunshine” and showing off their own scars to help the three-year-old feel more comfortable.
“Watching the girls interact with him was amazing — they took turns showing off their scars to make him feel more comfortable,” Bridget Hughey, Rylie’s mom, told People magazine.
“The odds were definitely against her, but she won the battle,” she added.
“Now that our girls are better, it’s our turn to take care of those who are beginning their battles. Adding Connor to the photo helps tell viewers that we have yet to win the war against childhood cancer.”
Valerie Franklin, Rheann’s mother, agreed, adding: “The picture this year means a lot to us because it helps highlight that yes, the girls are doing great, but childhood cancer is still out there. Rheann loves her friends and wants to help anyone in need.”
Young Connor was diagnosed with the same type of leukemia which the third little girl Ainsley also fought off. Although the eight-year-old never wants to have needles pierce her again after her treatment, she has recently decided to have her ears pierced.
“She is a warrior and will continue to work to spread awareness about cancer in children,” said her mother Andrea.
“She loves to show compassion to those around her. We’re both honored to be part of the bigger picture.”
Scantling has now dedicated part of her photography site to the brave cancer battlers, as well as the other young children she has photographed that are fighting in some way. You can see more from her Little Heroes Photo Project here.
H/T: People Magazine