Dad shares heartbreaking photo of cancer-stricken daughter, 4, after she was given weeks to live
Survivors often take the spotlight on the topic of children with cancer, but when a British photographer's daughter was given only weeks to live, he sought to capture the heartbreaking reality of the violent disease.
In a black and white photograph, 4-year-old Jessica Whelan from Lancashire, England, is lying on her back, her face distorted in anguish. She has a tube coming out of her right nostril and a single tear streaming down her cheek. Her skin is thin and translucent, and veins appear to protrude out of her chest.
"[The photograph] is not one I wish I had to shoot," her father Andy Whelan told InsideEdition.com, "but it's the one [that] shows the proof of childhood cancer. You can't even imagine what suffering she's in."
Photos of Jessica:
He said his daughter was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma in September of last year, and despite undergoing several different treatments, it became clear that Jessica was rapidly deteriorating.
Since the photo was taken last week, Andy said his daughter has gotten so thin that the tumors have begun poking through her skin.
"There's no fat tissue to hide them. They protrude now," Whelan told InsideEdition.com. He said sometimes, depending on how Jessica sits, they can see the tumors move around inside her body.
"Sometimes you have to face facts," the devastated father said. "No matter what we do, it isn't working. We made the hardest decision that we would rather spend that time at home with Jessica in the best possible health."
For Jessica, the best part about stopping treatment was her hair growing back. Her father said she constantly looks at pictures of herself when she was younger, with long blonde hair, and says she can't wait for it to grow back.
"Since it's started growing back, she's become very attached to it," Whelan said. "She doesn't know what she's going through. She's too young to understand. I don't want to put her through anything that's going to distress her further."
Even so, Jessica is constantly on a high dose of morphine for the pain. Whelan and his partner are also trained to give her sedatives, in case the pain is still too much to manage.
On bad days, Jessica even shoos her 21-month-old brother away.
"It's been hell, honestly," Whelan said. "Several times a day, she's in tears. She's very thin. She has little to no strength. She has very little mobility now, partially because of muscle wastage."
For the weeks to come, Whelan said they plan to spend time together as a family, watching Disney movies on the couch or spending time in the park.
"We're living every day like it could very well be the last," he told InsideEdition.com. "Even though we knew time was close, we didn't expect it to be this close."
The family has since started a GoFundMe page for the care Jessica will receive in her final days.