The four-year-old girl whose cancer battle caught the attention of the world when her father shared her heartbreaking photo has passed away.
Andy Whelan posted the photo of his four-year-old daughter Jessica while she was undergoing treatment on his Facebook page, calling it the ‘true face of cancer’. The photo went viral, being picked up by news sites and catching the attention of Harry Styles.
Sadly, Jessica lost her fight with the disease at 7am yesterday morning.
Her father, Andy, who has been keeping the world up to date on her Facebook page, wrote a touching message to inform all those who had been thinking of her.
He started, ‘I feel both sadness and relief in informing you all that Jessica finally found peace at seven o’clock this morning. No longer does she suffer, no longer does she feel the pain of the physical constraints of her body.
‘Now my princess has grown her angel wings and has gone up to play with her friends and loved ones.’
Andy explained in both this and previous posts that Jessica found it painful to be held or cuddled by her family, but that just before she died they had ‘the best and most cherished cuddle we have shared in a long time’.
‘Last night she finally allowed me to hold her in my arms and we had a big cuddle as I told her how much I loved her. I told her again that it was okay for her to close her eyes and go to sleep and I kissed her forehead and her lips numerous times.
‘It seems like this is what she needed to finally allow her to find comfort in her passing as within eight hours of this cuddle she finally took her final breath.’
Jessica had been fighting stage four neuroblastoma for 13 months but after doctors tragically found a mass in her stomach that refused to respond to treatment, she had been given just weeks to live.
Mum Nicki and dad Andy made the difficult decision to stop all treatment to let Jessica enjoy what time she has left out of the hospital with family and friends.
But, as hard as the situation has been for Andy, he wants to do what he can to raise awareness for childhood cancer and to encourage fundraising so that less children have to go through what Jessica has.
Although some have criticised the family for sharing the photo, Andy insists it’s a way of raising awareness:
‘This is the true face of cancer. My baby girls blood vessels protruding from beneath her skin, a solitary tear running down her cheek, her body stiffened and her face contorted in pain.’
Aware of the ‘difficult to watch’ nature of his photograph, Andy explained his reasons behind posting it, ‘with this photo I don’t mean to offend or upset anyone.
‘Perhaps by seeing this photo people will be made aware of the darkness that is childhood cancer, and perhaps the same people will be able to do something in the future so that no child has to suffer this pain, and so that no parent has to bear witness to their own flesh and blood deteriorating daily.’
Talking of the moment the family realised that Jessica’s illness had taken a turn for the worse, Andy said, ‘Jessica had been crying out in pain during the night. One of the nurses told the doctor so he decided to check her tummy to make sure it was nothing more than constipation. It was during the examination that the doctor found a mass in her tummy.
‘It was devastating,’ Andy explains. ‘Jessica was all ready to come home. She was even in her coat. Then we were told she’d need to stay in hospital for more tests.’
Our thoughts are with Jessica’s family at this time.