NEW YORK (CBS) Zahra Clare Baker's freckled face and endearing grin have become known to millions who wait for news on the whereabouts of the missing 10-year-old North Carolina girl.
The child reported missing Oct. 9 was also beloved in her native Australia - known as a cancer survivor, an eternal optimist, and a beacon of hope - as reporting by The Winston-Salem Journal recounts.
Giru, Australia is known for its endless stretches of cane fields and became Zahra's home in 2004, when her father Adam Baker moved there to take a job at the local sugar mill, reports the newspaper.
However, life was not always so sweet for Zahra who struggled with bone cancer and then tumors in her lungs
Despite her condition, the charismatic young girl did everything with a smile.
"They don't make them much tougher than little Zahra Baker," reporter Jessica Johnston wrote on Sept. 22, 2008 after meeting the young child. "The eight-year-old Giru girl has overcome more challenges than most people would in a lifetime, but nothing could wipe the smile off the bubbly youngster's face yesterday."
After defeating cancer at the ripe old age of six, Zahra who had lost her leg as a result of the treatment received yet another ill-fated diagnosis: tumors in her lungs.
Instead of giving up, Zahra pressed forward with the help of her father and grandmother Karen Baker who did everything within their power to restore her health.
"She was always hopping around on her crutches flat out through the ward and was always full of life, energy and always happy considering the illness she had been fighting," Wendy Wieck, whose daughter met while receiving chemotherapy told The Winston-Salem Journal.
The treatments worked and the tumors has ceased to grow; however, the treatments which saved Zahra's life led to partial hearing loss and hearing aids, reports the newspaper.
She persevered, taking courses and doing homework and all the while remaining a source of light for others who struggle with cancer.
Then, her father met and married Elisa Baker, a North Carolina woman he had met online.
Zahra abruptly disappeared.
No one, not even Zahra's grandmother, knew exactly where she had gone and those who knew the girl grew uneasy, especially because they thought her new stepmother was not who she claimed to be.
"She [Elisa] had a lot of stories that never quite rang true," Kim Wright, a family friend of the Baker's, told The Winston-Salem Journal.
The investigation into Zahra Clare Baker's disappearance in Catawba County, N.C. is continuing. Authorities are asking anyone with information on her whereabouts to contact the Hickory Police Department at 828-328-5551.