When Kristin Bowden and her husband, Dakota, learned their then-3-year-old daughter, Lula Beth, had pediatric kidney cancer, they were shocked by the diagnosis.
"When the words 'it's cancer' came out of the doctor's mouth, it truly dropped me to my knees," Bowden told TODAY Parents. "You never expect it to be your child — it's always just a sad, heartbreaking story you hear about others."
To give people facing a difficult diagnosis hope, Bowden, a professional photographer, began snapping photos of Lula's cancer journey to share on Instagram.
"I want to share our story to give others hope that even through the toughest battles good things are still around the corner," Bowden explained, "to never lose hope and always look for the light in things."
Bowden says her young daughter had been sick throughout the month of March 2020. While her intuition told her Lula was sick with more than a flu bug, the mom of two says she expected a diagnosis of a condition like appendicitis or a kidney infection, and was devastated to instead learn Lula had a stage 2 Wilm's tumor and would need surgery to remove both the mass and her kidney. After surgery, Lula needed 18 rounds of chemotherapy over 22 weeks.
When Lula began to lose her hair from the treatments, Bowden's son, Kohen, 8, asked for a haircut that would show his baby sister his support. Bowden captured powerful images of Lula, head shaven, shaving her brother's hair as well.
"Kohen really is heaven sent," said Bowden. "He has been such a rock and light throughout this journey. When Lula got to the point where we needed to shave her hair, he did not hesitate and volunteered his sister to shave his hair as well so she did not have to go through it alone. He really is a true brother bear — so protective and always wanting the best for her."
Bowden says Lula completed her treatments "like a champ." Today, the 4-year-old is cancer free, and will receive quarterly scans over the next four years to monitor her health.
Bowden recently shared another powerful Instagram post, showing Lula three months into chemotherapy compared to seven months into remission. The post went viral for its important message: "Never lose hope."
Before Lula's diagnosis, Bowden says her life had not been impacted by cancer. Now that it has, the Vernal, Utah mom says she will forever be an advocate for childhood cancer awareness and will keep telling her family's story on Instagram.
"As a mother you always want to protect your child and take their pain away, but with cancer you can't and that was one of the hardest parts about it," she said. "But I am also so blessed that she is cancer free and it has taught me to never take a day for granted."