Ashley Larson was having such a hard time coping with her mother’s cancer diagnosis that she at first stopped doing one of the things she loves most — photography.
“I’ve been shooting since I was a kid,” Larson, 27, told ABC News. “But when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was having a hard time coping with it. I stopped taking photography clients. My heart just wasn’t in it anymore.”
Larson’s mom, Diane Willoughby, was diagnosed with breast cancer last May.
Willoughby, 57, who has four children including Larson, told ABC News that she “didn’t really know what to think” after the diagnosis.
“At first, everybody around me was reacting,” she said. “Even the technician [at the doctor’s office] was in tears. I had to comfort her … it was kind of like that throughout the whole thing.”
Willoughby, who like Larson lives in Niceville, Florida, endured six rounds of intense chemotherapy over four months and underwent a double mastectomy.
During Willoughby’s treatment, Larson got an idea that she thought might help her deal with her mother’s illness. She said she decided to photograph her own 3-year-old daughter, Scout, dressed up as “strong, fierce women,” such as Adele, Frida Kahlo, Carrie Fisher, Betty White and Ellen DeGeneres.
“I really wanted for me and Scout both to be reminded how strong women are,” Larson said.
Then when Willoughby was declared cancer-free earlier this month, Larson wanted to mark the occasion with her another photo shoot. Willoughby said she was immediately on board.
“I thought it was a wonderful creative way to work through what she was having to do deal with,” the mother said of her photographer daughter. “It seemed to be affecting everyone
The 10-minute photo shoot, held earlier this month, featured Scout and Willoughby wearing almost-matching T-shirts. Willoughby’s read, “I am cancer free. Let’s party!” while Scout’s declared, “Nonnie is cancer free.”
Willoughby said her daughter got wonderful photos in no time.
“Ashley is an amazing photographer,” Willoughby said. “It took her a matter of seconds.”
And for Larson, the photos were cathartic.
“I was so happy that my mom let me do it because she does not like the spotlight. She’s so selfless,” she added.