A DAD has defended sharing a heartbreaking picture of his dying four-year-old daughter writhing in agony, according to reports. Andy Whelan, 30, has described the image as “the true face of cancer” and insists “it needed to be seen”.
The dad, from Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, was forced to defend himself after the devastating image – which reached more than half a million people in 24 hours – attracted mixed reactions online. Andy, who shared the powerful photo of his daughter Jessica, four, on Facebook, told the Daily Mail: “I battled with myself: should we share this?
“But I knew it needed to be seen. So many photos show smiling bald children in hospital wards surrounded by santas, actors and celebrities, their happy faces full of hope, which is uplifting. “But this is not the everyday face of childhood cancer, which is brutal and painful and shocking.”
Andy took the photo of his young daughter as she writhed in pain, pushing her parents away before fast-acting morphine took effect. Writing on a blog about her illness, he said: “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 is the true face of cancer, my baby girl’s blood vessels protruding from beneath her skin, a solitary tear running down her cheek, her body stiffened and her face contorted in pain.” Jessica has been battling stage four neuroblastoma, a cancer of nerve cells, for four months but doctors have now told her they can do nothing more.
Andy and Jessica’s mum, Nicki, have made the heartbreaking decision to stop her treatment. The dad-of-two said: “We are really struggling and it’s hard to know that we’re going to lose my daughter. “We have been told it is going to be a couple of weeks and every day we take as the last. Jessica is on morphine for the pain but seems happy enough.
“She is a four-year-old child who has no idea and we want it to stay that way. As long as she sees us with smiles on our faces, she’s OK. But how do you cope with losing a child?” Jessica was diagnosed with cancer in July 2015 when she went for a scan after falling and hurting her shoulder.
She was initially diagnosed with an infection and inflammation of the bone and prescribed antibiotics, but received the devastating news after months with no improvement. An ultrasound scan found a growth around her liver and kidneys.
Mum Nicki, who has given up her job as a nail technician to look after Jessica, said the family were hurt by comments slamming their decision to share the image. But she added: “We are trying to raise awareness about childhood cancer and this is the realisation. It is not all about children smiling in hospital. There is real suffering.”