When three little girls gathered last year for a touching photo showing the close bond in their battle against cancer, their eyes were closed as they hugged each other tightly.
Almost one year after that photo went viral, Oklahoma girls Rheann Franklin, 7, Ainsley Peters, 5, and Rylie Hughey, 4, gathered to pose for photographer Lora Scantling, this time with their eyes wide open to a bright future.
After taking the initial photo in April 2014 with Scantling and photographer Christy Goodger, the trio confirmed in July that they were in remission. They celebrated by re-creating their initial photo in August, and then gathered again this month for another updated photo, this time with three big smiles.
Franklin just underwent her last round of chemotherapy on Monday, Hughey has been cancer-free for 15 months, and Peters is in a maintenance phase and continuing chemotherapy until the fall.
"The first shot with their eyes closed portrayed that they were there for each other during the fight and embracing each other for comfort, and this time I wanted to show their bond is still strong and that they beat it together,'' Scantling told TODAY.com. "I love watching these girls when they are together. They have such a sweet bond and always get excited when they get to see each other."
The girls have remained close since first coming together, with the ability to raise one another's spirits during tough times.
"Ainsley had just gotten out of an almost one-week hospital stay, and she was still a little tired and getting back into the swing of things, but her two besties always make her feel better,'' Scantling said.
"She is looking forward to her 6th birthday in May and is full of energy on most days,'' Ainsley's mother, Andrea Peters, told TODAY.com. "She loves seeing Rylie and Rheann and catching up with her 'famous' friends!"
Scantling and the girls' parents have also become close and regularly stay in touch.
"I love getting to see them and love getting to spend time with their moms, too,'' Scantling said. "After the session we sat and chatted about when the first photo was taken and how you can tell such a big difference in them. We talked about how the first photo went viral and how it has impacted all of our lives ,and we talked about how neat it is to be able to use the girls to bring such a big awareness to this horrible disease. We will always have a special bond."
"Seeing the girls together is such a blessing, and Rheann loves getting to see her best friends Rylie and Ainsley,'' Rheann's mother, Valerie Franklin, told TODAY.com.
"She had so much fun taking pictures again today with her best 'fwins,''' Rylie's mother, Bridget Hughey, told TODAY.com.