Jessica Whelan cancer death: Four-year-old who touched hearts dies

A picture of Jessica Whelan Image copyright Facebook/Andrew Whelan

A four-year-old cancer sufferer whose struggle was highlighted in a heartbreaking photograph has died.

Jessica Whelan's illness was brought to public attention when her father Andy published an image showing her in pain as she battled her terminal condition.

The four-year-old, from Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, was diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma in September 2015.

Her death on Sunday was announced by Mr Whelan on Facebook.

Image copyright Facebook

Posting on the "Jessica Whelan - A fight against Neuroblastoma" page, he said: "I feel both sadness and relief in informing you all that Jessica finally found peace at seven o'clock this morning."

In a second post, he said: "Fly high my beautiful princess. Ride free on horses in heaven and enjoy being with loved ones and free from your pain.

"I will never forget you and I am honoured to call you my daughter.

"I love you more than words can convey, much more than you will ever know."

Image copyright Facebook/Andrew Whelan
Image caption Jessica's father published a heart-breaking image to raise awareness of her illness

Neuroblastoma is an aggressive cancer of the nervous system.

A 'Creating happiness for Jessica' fundraising page was created on 7 October to give Jessica "as much happiness and enjoyment as possible" in the remainder of her life.

'Hardest photograph'

The image of her grimacing in pain as she battled her terminal condition was published on Facebook two days later, resulting in an initial £20,000 target being smashed.

By the time the page was closed earlier this month due to Jessica's deteriorating condition, it had raised £97,307.

Her family said the donations will be passed to charities that will "further research into childhood cancer".

On posting the picture, Mr Whelan said it was the "hardest photograph I have ever 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 said he wanted to raise awareness of the "darkness that is childhood cancer" adding: "I do not mean to offend or upset, I do mean however to educate and shock those that see it in its context."

One Direction singer Harry Styles also offered to make a recording for Jessica after seeing the photo, Mr Whelan said on Facebook.

What is Neuroblastoma?

  • It is a rare type of cancer that mostly affects babies and young children
  • It develops from specialised nerve cells (neuroblasts) left behind from a baby's development in the womb
  • It affects around 100 children each year in the UK
  • The cause is unknown
  • In very rare cases children in the same family can be affected, but generally neuroblastoma doesn't run in families

Source: NHS Choices

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