The circle of life is weird. It gives happiness to some in the form of birth and leaves some in tears in the form of death. Birth and death are the two core truths of all life on Earth. So the mere knowledge that death will come and take you away one day does not make it any easier to accept when the time comes. At the time of a child’s birth, people are so lost in their world of happiness that they don’t worry about anything else. In such joyous times, nobody thinks about the other end of the circle because they don’t expect this brand new life to come with an early expiration date on his or her package.This is the story of the agony faced by Andy Whelan and his partner, Nikki Prendergast, who lost their daughter, Jessica Whelan, to cancer. The girl’s unfortunate condition grabbed everyone’s attention when Andy posted a black and white picture of his daughter grimacing in pain.
On September 2015, the 4-year-old from Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire was diagnosed with stage-four neuroblastoma, a cancer of the nerve cells. After Jessica’s diagnosis, Andy started documenting her daughter’s struggle with an aim to raise awareness for childhood cancer and called it the “true face of cancer.”
Andy Whelan broke the heartbreaking news of his daughter’s death through a Facebook post. The post read, “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.”
Further expressing his grief, he wrote, “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. She was a daddy’s girl from the start. I feel like a massive part of me has just been torn away but I am so glad that I could give her that comfort in her final hours.”
Jessica’s family have been overwhelmed with responses and the support that people have shown. Initially they thought of raising £20,000 through the GoFundMe site, but as the picture of the “true face of cancer” was posted, the target was cracked within hours. They raised around £76,000 from all the well-wishers.
Gratitude doesn’t even begin to describe how the family felt for everyone’s support during such a difficult time, which also helped them give their daughter the send-off that she deserved. Andy told MailOnline, “We don’t feel comfortable about asking for money and we weren’t even going to do it until people asked us to. Now, we can’t believe how far it has gone. It seems to have reached most corners of the world.”
The grieving father has been criticized by some people for his decision to post the picture of his sick daughter. He defended himself by saying, “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 will be able to do something in the future so that no child has to suffer this pain.”
Andy, a photographer by profession, confessed that the sight of his lovely daughter in pain was an unbearable yet familiar sight for the family. Jessica’s death has been very painful for them as they expected a few weeks to comfort their daughter. But their time was cut short by her deteriorating condition.
The brave girl fought cancer for 13 months but there was no improvement in her condition. Therefore, the parents decided to stop the treatment and allow her to enjoy whatever time she had left with her baby brother James and her parents.