Father of terminally-ill child shares heartbreaking moment 'where we as parents could offer her no comfort'

The picture of Jessica Whelan has had nearly 10,000 reactions on Facebook.
The picture of Jessica Whelan has had nearly 10,000 reactions on Facebook. Photo: Facebook/Andy Whelan

The father of a four-year-old girl given just weeks to live has revealed a heartbreaking picture of the moment "where we as parents could offer her no comfort".

Andy Whelan, an electrician from Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, shared the black-and-white image of Jessica on his Facebook page about her illness.

It has since had nearly 10,000 reactions.

Jessica was given four weeks to live.
Jessica was given four weeks to live. Photo: Facebook/Andy Whelan

Mr Whelan wrote in the post Jessica Whelan - A fight against Neuroblastoma: "This is the hardest photograph I have ever made.

"A few days ago she was given what is most likely a few weeks to live. This was taken at a moment where we as parents could offer no comfort - Jessica pushing us away as she rode out her searing pain in solitude."

Jessica, who has been fighting stage four neuroblastoma for 13 months, but has now been given just weeks to live after Mr Whelan and his partner Nicki Prendergast decided to stop treatment in a bid to allow her to enjoy whatever time she has got left.

'"This is the true face of cancer," he said. "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.

"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."

Jessica was diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma on September 23, 2015. Initially, after suffering pains in her arms and shoulders, doctors diagnosed Jessica with a bone infection. 

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But just as she was about to be discharged, after ten weeks in hospital, doctors decided to examine her one more time.

"Jessica had been crying out in pain during the night," Mr Whelan said. "One of the nurses told the doctor so he decided to check her tummy to make sure it was nothing more than constipation."

During the examination the doctor found a mass in her stomach.

Andy with his daughter Jessica Whelan.
Andy with his daughter Jessica Whelan. Photo: Facebook/Andy Whelan

"It was devastating," Mr Whelan said. "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."

An ultrasound showed there was a mass around Jessica's liver, but it was after an MRI the following day that doctors broke the news that Jessica had cancer.

"The news felt like my heart was ripped out of my chest while someone sucked the air from my lungs 

Jessica Whelan suffers from Neuroblastoma.
Jessica Whelan suffers from Neuroblastoma. Photo: Facebook/Andy Whelan

"I asked the doctor how long she had left, and he said he couldn't give a figure but it was likely to be a couple of years," Mr Whelan explained.

Jessica started chemotherapy and then doctors started her on a clinical drug trial. When her hair started falling out they cut it into a bob, then shaved it all off.

After three months, Jessica went into hospital for tests.

Mr Whelan said: "The consultant told us the tumour was the same size, they hadn't budged it at all. But he said there was another trial we could try, and not to lose hope."

The Telegraph, London