'I told her it was OK to go to sleep': Cancer-stricken girl shares final cuddle with dad before death

A four-year-old girl whose struggle against cancer was depicted in a harrowing photograph taken by her father has died.

Jessica Whelan, from Oswaldtwistle in Lancashire, passed away on Sunday morning after suffering from neuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer that mostly affects babies and young children.

She was diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma in September 2015.

Jessica Whelan tragically passed away on Sunday morning. Photo: Andy Whelan.
Jessica Whelan tragically passed away on Sunday morning. Photo: Andy Whelan.

Her father Andy wrote on Facebook: "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."

Mr Whelan added: "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.

"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."

Last month, Mr Whelan posted an image of his daughter's suffering on Facebook, calling it "the hardest photograph I have ever made".

Mr Whelan said he had not meant to "offend or upset".

Mr Whelan's post on Facebook.
Mr Whelan's post on Facebook.

Rather, he wanted people "not in our position" to become aware of the "darkness that is childhood cancer".

He added: "Perhaps these same people may be able to do something about it so that in the future no child has to suffer this pain."

A GoFundMe page, set up with a goal of £20,000 ($33,000AUD), exceeded £97,000 ($163,000 AUD) before being closed.

It was set up to "give Jessica as much happiness and enjoyment is as possible in whatever time we have left with her".

Jessica's family later redirected those still wanting to donate to the charity Neuroblastoma UK.

News break – November 21

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