"She thinks my mom is tough as nails!" Ashley Larson tells PEOPLE of her daughter Scout
Three-year-old Scout Larson has a great role model: her grandmother!
The toddler from Niceville, Florida, looks up to her 57-year-old “nonnie” Diane Willoughby, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2016 and went through six rounds of intense chemotherapy from June to September and a double mastectomy in December of last year.
Scout’s mother, Ashley Larson, took pictures of her daughter dressed as her “hero” grandma in a touching series of photographs. In the photo, Scout wears a shirt that reads, “Nonnie is cancer free let’s party!” while Willoughby sports a matching shirt that says, “I am cancer free let’s party!”
“She thinks my mom is tough as nails!” Larson tells PEOPLE of her daughter. “She tells everyone, ‘My nonnie has her hair back, she’s not sick anymore.’ “
Larson — who also has a 5-year-old and 2-year-old with her husband, George — got the idea for the photoshoot after posting a series of photographs of her daughter dressed as strong women and inspiring celebrities to her Instagram account.
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“But mom is the ultimate role model,” says Larson. “We’ve lost a few family members to breast cancer, and when she got the diagnosis it was scary. The kids were confused when mom started losing her hair and got very sick, but they understood that she was a strong lady to get better.
“It was comforting to her to show Scout how strong women are and that grandma will be okay.”
Although Willoughby doesn’t like to be the center of attention, Scout “is a natural model,” says her mom.
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“My mom is a lot like me, she prefers to be behind a camera instead of in front of one,” explains Larson. “She was like, ‘I’ll do this for the project,’ but after seeing how the photoshoot turned out, she loves the pictures.
“On the other hand, Scout loves the camera and she really takes great direction for a 3-year-old.”
Larson will compile all of the photographs into a book made just for her mother and daughter.
“I know that Scout can’t fully comprehend everything about the breast cancer right now, but I want her to have it for later to look at,” says Larson. “My ultimate hope is that once she is my age and can totally grasp the fact that women are fierce, not dainty and delicate — she will see that in her own grandmother.”
Scout has over 33,000 followers on Instagram. Her mother has dressed her up as a variety of women from Meryl Streep to Malala Yousafzai to Eleven from Stranger Things.
“My ultimate hope is that when she is older everyone will be treated equally, men and women,” says Larson. “But if not, Scout will have these photographs to look at and be reminded that women are strong and powerful, just like she is.”