October 24, 2020

Jessica Whelan: girl in heartbreaking picture shared worldwide dies aged four


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screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-1-37-40-pmBy Frances Perraudin From The Guardian

Father of Lancashire girl documented ‘truth and reality’ of his daughter’s struggle with neuroblastoma on Facebook page

A four-year-old girl whose portrait came to symbolise the “darkness that is childhood cancer” has died after a year-long battle with the disease.

Jessica Whelan, from Oswaldtwistle in Lancashire, died on Sunday [Nov 13] from neuroblastoma, an aggressive cancer of the nervous system that mostly affects babies and young children.

Her father, Andrew, highlighted his daughter’s struggle when he posted a photograph of her writhing in agony on a Facebook page set up to document her story in October.

“I feel both sadness and relief in informing you all that Jessica finally found peace at seven o’clock this morning,” wrote her father on the Facebook page on Sunday. “No longer does she suffer, no longer does she feel the pain of the physical constraints of her body.”

Jessica’s family started a fundraising page on 7 October to raise money to help give Jessica “as much happiness and enjoyment as possible” in the short time she had left.

The page had raised more than £75,000 when it was closed earlier this month because of the little girl’s worsening condition. The family said the money would be donated to childhood cancer research.

Writing about his decision to publish the upsetting image of his daughter, said that, as a photographer, it was important to capture “the truth and the reality of a situation” and that it showed “the true face of cancer”.

“A few days ago she was given what is most likely only a few weeks to live after a battle against cancer that has been waged for over 12 months,” he wrote. “This photograph was made in a moment that we as parents could offer her no comfort, her pushing us away whilst she rode out this searing pain in solitude.”

He added that he did not mean to offend or upset anybody by publishing the photograph. “I do mean however to educate and shock those that see it in its context,” he said.

“Perhaps by seeing this photo people not in our position will be made aware of the darkness that is childhood cancer, perhaps these same people may be able to do something about it so that in the future no child has to suffer this pain, so that no parent has to bear witness to their own flesh and blood deteriorating daily.”

A petition set up by Jessica’s family calling for child cancer to be put at the forefront of NHS and government funding schemes had received 114,000 signatures on Sunday evening, passing the 100,000 threshold for the subject to be debated in parliament. A debate has been scheduled for 28 November.

Neuroblastoma is a rare type of cancer that affects children, mostly under the age of five. The disease develops from particular types of nerve cells called neuroblasts and there are about 100 diagnoses of the cancer each year in the UK.

IMAGE: Jessica Whelan’s father, Andrew, said he wanted to show ‘the truth and the reality of a situation’. Photograph: Afightagainstneuroblastoma/Facebook

For more on this story go to: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/nov/20/jessica-whelan-the-face-of-child-cancer-dies-at-four-years-old


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