Four-year-old Jessica Whelan whose portrait came to symbolise the “darkness that is childhood cancer” has died after a year-long battle with the disease, the Guardian reports.
Jessica died on Sunday from neuroblastoma, an aggressive cancer of the nervous system that mostly affects babies and young children.
Her father, Andrew, highlighted his daughter’s struggle when he posted a photograph of her writhing in agony on a Facebook page set up to document her story in October.
“I feel both sadness and relief in informing you all that Jessica finally found peace at seven o’clock this morning,” wrote her father on the Facebook page on Sunday. “No longer does she suffer, no longer does she feel the pain of the physical constraints of her body.”
Jessica’s family started a fundraising page on 7 October to raise money to help give Jessica “as much happiness and enjoyment as possible” in the short time she had left.
The page had raised more than £75,000 when it was closed earlier this month because of the little girl’s worsening condition. The family said the money would be donated to childhood cancer research.
Writing about his decision to publish the upsetting image of his daughter, Andrew Whelan said that, as a photographer, it was important to capture “the truth and the reality of a situation” and that it showed “the true face of cancer”.
A petition set up by Jessica’s family calling for child cancer to be put at the forefront of NHS and government funding schemes had received 114,000 signatures on Sunday evening, passing the 100,000 threshold for the subject to be debated in parliament. A debate has been scheduled for 28 November.
Large image: Andrew Whelan / Facebook