A four-year-old girl who captured the attention of people around the world with a heartbreaking photo and an incredible story of bravery and courage has died.
Her father, Andy Whelan, announced the news in the early hours of Sunday morning.
“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,” he wrote on Facebook.
“Now my princess has grown her angel wings and has gone up to play with her friends and loved ones. She will now watch down over her little brother and ourselves until one day we are reunited again.
“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 and I kissed her forehead and her lips numerous times. It seems like this is what she needed to finally allow her to find comfort in her passing as within eight hours of this cuddle she finally took her final breath. She was a daddy’s girl from the start and even right up to the end. 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. She passed peacefully and calmly with not even a murmur.
“Thank you to everyone of you who has shared and has been a part of our journey. I ask now for privacy for us and our family as we mourn the loss of our beautiful princess.
“From a heartbroken daddy of the most amazing and beautiful girl.”
Doctors said earlier this month that Jessica Whelan, 4, of Clayton-Le-Moors, England, had only months to live. According to a Facebook post by her father that has gone viral, Jessica suffered from stage four Neuro-blastoma, an aggressive cancer of the nervous system.
Last month, an exam showed the cancer was no longer responding to treatments.
Andy, a photographer, decided to shed light on the darkest moment in his life by posting a recent photo of Jessica.
In it, she appeared to be in agony.
"My only aim of this image was to highlight the true face of childhood cancer and not the happy smiling bald headed face of a child showing hope that is often portrayed by media. Yes it is heartbreaking but this is reality... I had a massive battle with myself to both take and show this photo, not knowing if it should be shown to others. From the messages, comments and shares it has has had I now know I was right to do so," wrote Andy.
The photo has been shared more than 500,000 times.
"If this photograph only serves as a purpose to make people think twice about this evil and put into perspective what it does to a child then it has achieved its purpose."