Honouring Jessica Whelan – ^Forever 4^

four_year_old_jessA few weeks ago we published a post called The Real Face of Childhood Cancer; the story of little Jessica Whelan, a 4-year-old terminally ill Child with Cancer.

Her father, a photographer, snapped a photo showing his daughter suffering from the pain caused by neuroblastoma and shared it on Facebook, pleading with followers to raise more awareness for paediatric cancers.

Unfortunately, little Jessica lost her 13-month battle with cancer on Sunday, and her father posted a heartbreaking tribute to his ‘little princess’ whose photograph, showing her grimacing and arching her back in pain because of neuroblastoma, caught the attention of millions and made her a worldwide symbol for children battling cancer.

Jessica’s death came just a week before a debate by MPs sparked after 100,000 signed a petition set up by her family.

Dad Andy Whelan penned a moving tribute to his daughter just hours after she passed away, saying:

I am not ready to let you go Jessica, you are my little princess. You are the most amazing, strongest and bravest little girl and I am blessed to be your daddy.

Never again will I hear your joyful cry out of “Daddy!!!” as I walk through the front door, never again will I hear that infectious giggle of yours as you mischievously climb and jump all over me, tickling me as we play fight.

andy-and-jessicaI have so many wonderful memories and yet so few as you were taken far too young. I should be led here planning our next family trip not led here planning your funeral. I should be led here singing alongside you your favourite songs not adding them to a playlist to be played as we say goodbye to you.

The bond me and you share is truly amazing, you always were a daddy’s girl, often only calming when I wrapped my arms around you. I’m sorry I couldn’t protect you from this evil world baby girl, I’m sorry you had to suffer the way you did. It breaks me to think about what you have had to endure for a quarter of your short life and it will be a cause of my nightmares for me for years to come.

I miss you so much baby girl, I miss your voice, I miss your smile, I miss you wrapping your arms around my neck as we cuddle. I miss your spontaneous statement of “I love you Daddy”, a statement you came out with several times daily. I miss you Jessica, tears rolling down my cheeks and wetting my pillow as I think of you and the bond we shared.

Goodnight my beautiful angel, please come and give me a cuddle as I sleep xxx

Mr Whelan posted the candid photograph of his daughter earlier this month.

Speaking about his decision to post the photo, Mr Whelan said:

jessica-whelanI took that photo – not to share with the public – but as more of a momento; to remind us, when we look back and worry about everything, that we had done the right thing by stopping her treatment. That image just shows how bad it was, if we ever questioned our decision. 

But, once I uploaded that onto the computer, I instantly realised how powerful that image actually was. We speak about photos that change people’s perceptions – and I knew this one would.”

He said that even those who have gone through the experience of child cancer, had been shocked by the image.

The face of cancer isn’t the bald-headed smiling child surrounded by celebrities, it’s just not. That’s what I was trying to show,” he said.

I’ve had many people saying they took photos like this but couldn’t look at them. I’ve had people saying “yes, that’s what I went through too. And for those that haven’t, it highlights just how awful child cancer is. It’s opening people’s eyes up to what is going on in the world.”

Jessica was diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroblastoma on September 23 last year. Jessica, who was suffering with suffering pains in her arms and shoulders, was initially diagnosed with a bone infection.

jess-in-hospitalJust as she was about to be discharged after ten weeks in hospital though, doctors decided to examine her one more time because she had been crying out in pain during the night. One of the nurses told the doctor, so he decided to check her tummy to make sure it was nothing more than constipation.

It was during this examination that the doctor found a mass in her tummy. An ultrasound showed there was a mass around Jessica’s liver, but it was only after an MRI the following day that it was discovered that Jessica had cancer.

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, but the news was not good – the tumour had not shrunk at all. The doctor said there was another trial they could try, and not to lose hope.

Months passed and Jessica seemed to improve, but at the end of the trial there was once again no improvement; the tumour had not shrunk, but it hadn’t grown either. Jessica’s parents were told that there was no more treatments they could try, and they were now basically just looking at prolonging Jessica’s life, not curing the cancer.

Jessica underwent MIBG (targeted radiation therapy) in August, but by October, although her existing tumours didn’t seem to have grown, the cancer had spread to other areas of her body.

The oncologist said that although there were other clinical trials, nothing would really make a difference for Jessica and that she had only months left to live.

jess-acting-like-daddyAt this stage Andy and Nicki had to decide whether they wanted to continue treatment, or let Jessica enjoy a ‘normal’ life in the time she had left.

Those studies would be pumping her full of chemicals to keep her alive for our sake, but it’s Jessica that matters, not us,” said Andy.

On October 12 they made the decision to end treatment and were then told Jessica only had weeks to live.

The news felt like my heart was ripped out of my chest while someone sucked the air from my lungs,” Andy said.

Mr Whelan said he and Jessica’s mother, Nicki, have decided to donate Jessica’s organs and tissues to scientific research.

If this situation can provide a bit more advancement in medicine – if some positive could come out of this – then we want to do it,” he said. “If we can make a difference so fewer families have to go through this, then at least that will be some comfort to us.”


All of us at Team LFCT would like pass on our condolences to dad Andy Whelan and mom Nicki Prendergast. We hold you in our hearts and in our prayers.

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•💕 Love, Light & Strength 💕 •
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About LFCT

CHILDHOOD CANCER and CHILDHOOD CANCER AWARENESS Little Fighters Cancer Trust is a non-profit Childhood Cancer support organisation that offers support and aid to Children with Cancer and their families. When a child is diagnosed with cancer it affects the whole family. One of the parents, usually the mother, must give up their job to care for the child and this creates financial problems for the family. In South Africa especially the majority of these families are not well-to-do; many of them are rural. A diagnosis of cancer can wipe out any family’s finances, let alone a poor family. The costs of special medications, special diets, hospital stays, transport to and from the hospital or clinic and accommodation and food costs for the mother who spends most of the time at her child’s bedside are astronomical. These are the people and problems that fall through the cracks, and these are the people that Little Fighters Cancer Trust has pledged to help in any way possible. LFCT takes a holistic approach to assisting the Children with Cancer and their Families, with the main aim to be the preservation of individual dignity and pride. Little Fighters Cancer Trust also focuses on promotion and advocacy of National Childhood Cancer Awareness in an effort to increase awareness of Early Warning Signs of Childhood Cancer. This would result in earlier diagnosis, giving the Child with Cancer more of a chance at Treatment and Survival. See "About" for more Background info

Posted on 22 November, 2016, in Articles, Blog and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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