Six-year-old Avalynn leans in close to the camera on the video call and reveals a new smile to old friends.
“I’m missing two teeth!” she declares with a wide grin.
“I lost one the night before last,” offers 7-year-old Lauren.
“I’ve lost seven,” says Chloe, also a 7-year-old.
Despite all odds, the “tutu girls” are together again — comparing notes on weighty issues such as the Tooth Fairy, favorite pets, haircuts and craft projects.
McKinley, Avalynn, Lauren and Chloe are joyful in each other’s company … even if this year’s reunion has to be a virtual one.
“I wish I could hug you guys,” McKinley says.
“Me too!” Chloe and Avalynn chime in.
The four girls first met and became friends in 2016 when each was being treated for cancer at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. Photos were taken of the girls — just toddlers back then — in their tutus. So precious was that moment that it became a tradition. The girls get together around this date every year to reconnect, to take new photos and make new memories together.
The girls are all doing well, but Lauren has had the most difficult journey. Her cancer recurred in 2018, and she has been receiving treatment since that time. Lauren was recently able to go home after a second bone marrow transplant, and she is currently in remission.
“Lauren, are you all better now?” McKinley asks.
Lauren pauses and then, with confidence, offers her reply.
“Yes! I am feeling better now … and I really want a puppy!”
The “tutu girls” have a way of reminding us that there are few things stronger than true friendship …
Not even cancer.