Dad shares harrowing photo after doctors say daughter battling cancer has weeks to live

Jessica Whelan, photo taken by her father, Andy Whelan. Photo courtesy the Whelan family.
Jessica Whelan, photo taken by her father, Andy Whelan. Photo courtesy the Whelan family.

(WFLA) – A father recently shared a heartbreaking photo and note about his 4-year-old daughter. Little Jessica Whelan, of England, was diagnosed with high risk stage 4 neuroblastoma  in September 2015.

Her family has chronicled her battle on a Facebook page. Track their updates here.

They received devastating news last week. Doctors say Jessica has just weeks to live.

Her dad, Andy Whelan, shared a harrowing photo of the little girl – with a note. Whelan is a photographer. He writes that this photo is the hardest he’s ever made. “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 writes. “This sadly, for us as a family, is not a sight that we see rarely. This is now a familiar sight that we see regularly through each day and night, its frequency now more often.”

Whelan says we need more research and to find a cure. “Please I beg of you, as a heartbroken father, it is too late for my daughter, but childhood cancer needs to be cured,” he writes.


Read Whelan’s entire note:

“As a photographer it is important to capture the truth and the reality of a situation, too easy it becomes to capture the joy of life whilst discarding the torture that we see.

This is the hardest photograph I have ever made, it is in fact my own four year old daughter. 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 twelve months. 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. This sadly, for us as a family, is not a sight that we see rarely. This is now a familiar sight that we see regularly through each day and night, its frequency now more often. 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.

I could try and use a thousand words to describe this image that we as parents are confronted with on a daily basis but these words would fall short of truly depicting the sight we see. With this photo I do not mean to offend or upset, I do mean however to educate and shock those that see it in it’s context. 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.

The only apologies I offer are to those that know Jessica, I understand that this photo is hard to see and even harder to absorb. To those that do not know Jessica I offer no apologies, this is what cancer does to a child in their final weeks and days!!! Before her diagnosis I was one of those ignorant to the darkness of childhood cancer, not truly appreciating the hell that it brings. It would never happen to us! Now I give childhood cancer the respect it deserves, seeing too many children suffering this same fate and watching families torn apart.

If this photograph only serves as a purpose to make people think twice about this evil and put into perspective what it does to a child then it has achieved its purpose. Research needs to be done, cures need to be found, too long now has this been allowed to happen.

Please I beg of you, as a heartbroken father, it is too late for my daughter, but childhood cancer needs to be cured. No family should have to go through this hell.”