Father captures dying daughter's pain in heart-rending photo

The photo of Jessica Whelan, taken by her father (Facebook / Jessica Whelan - A fight against Neuroblastoma)
The photo of Jessica Whelan, taken by her father (Facebook / Jessica Whelan - A fight against Neuroblastoma)

A heartbroken father has shared an image of his four-year-old daughter, her face contorted in pain as she enters the final stages of her year-long battle with cancer.

The photo is of British girl Jessica Whelan, who was tragically diagnosed with high-risk stage four neuroblastoma in September last year - and has now been told she only has weeks to live.

Her father, a photographer by trade, posted the image to Facebook on Sunday in an effort to "educate and shock those that see it in its context".

"Perhaps by seeing this photo people not in our position will be made aware of the darkness that is childhood cancer," Whelan wrote.

"Perhaps these same people may be able to do something about it so that in the future no child has to suffer this pain, so that no parent has to bear witness to their own flesh and blood deteriorating daily."

The photograph, which he describes as being "the hardest I have ever made", has now gone viral, garnering 20,000 reactions and more than 7000 shares.

British pop star Harry Styles has seen the image and Mr Whelan says he received a phone call from him, offering to send a video recording.

Neuroblastoma is the most common form of child cancer worldwide, composed of a tumour that steals maturing nerve cells in the brain and converts them into cancer cells.

Mr Whelan says the moment he captured was "sadly, for us as a family, not a sight that we see rarely".

"This photograph was made in a moment that we as parents could offer her no comfort - her pushing us away whilst she rode out this searing pain in solitude," he wrote.

"This is now a familiar sight that we see regularly through each day and night, its frequency now more often.

"This is the true face of cancer; my baby girl's blood vessels protruding from beneath her skin, a solitary tear running down her cheek, her body stiffened and her face contorted in pain."

The last part of the photograph's caption features a plea to cancer researchers around the world.

"Research needs to be done, cures need to be found - too long now has this been allowed to happen," he said.

"Please, I beg of you as a heartbroken father - it is too late for my daughter, but childhood cancer needs to be cured. No family should have to go through this hell."

Mr Whelan says it was "important to capture the truth and the reality of the situation" in the photograph.