Cancer-stricken girl who broke the internet’s heart after her father posted a heartbreaking picture of her suffering has died

Cancer-stricken youngster Jessica Whelan, who reduced the world to tears in a heartbreaking picture of her suffering, has lost her battle with cancer, her family has revealed. Her heartbroken dad Andy wrote on Facebook that the youngster had “finally found peace” at 7am on Sunday after her fight against the disease was seen by millions around the world.

Strangers had raised £76,000 for Jessica, from Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, so she could enjoy her final weeks after being diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma in September.

Pop star Harry Styles got behind the campaign and contacted her family after being moved by the image.

Andy wrote on Facebook today: “No longer does she suffer, no longer does she feel the pain of the physical constraints of her body.

(Photo: Facebook/@Afightagainstneuroblastoma)

“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.

Andy Whelan with his daughter JessicaAndy Whelan with his daughter (Photo: Facebook)

“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.”

But before passing away she found the strength to embrace her father despite the immense pain caused by her cancer.

Her dad Andy, 30, said; “Every day has been a battle to get her and keep her comfortable using pain relief and sedatives.

“Through all the pain relief and sedatives she has still not had the comfort to allow me to do anything more than rest my hand upon her, perhaps hold her hand and occasionally kiss her dried pale lips.

Jessica in hospitalJessica in hospital (Photo: Andrew James Whelan)

“Last night however we managed to get her body to absorb enough of the medicines that this time when changing her bedding, instead of having to merely move her onto our bed, Jessica actually let me and seemed comforted to have me pick her up and rest her on myself for around twenty minutes or so.

“I can honestly say it was probably the best and most cherished cuddle we have shared in a long time.”

The couple had earlier decided to stop Jessica’s treatment when doctors said they could do nothing more.

She was given an X-ray at Blackburn Hospital in July 2015 after injuring her shoulder and that was when Andy and Nicki’s horror journey began.

The youngster was initially diagnosed with an infection and inflammation of the bone and prescribed antibiotics but after months with no improvement, the couple were given the devastating news.

An ultrasound scan found a growth around her liver and kidneys.

Andy along with Jessica’s mum Nicki Pendergast, 28, said they wanted people to take a long look at “the true face of cancer” when they released the photo.

Jessica Whelan

Jessica was initially diagnosed after getting a scan when she injured her shoulder (Photo: Andrew James Whelan)

The picture was taken at a moment before fast-acting morphine had taken effect and it shows Jessica “pushing” her parents away “as she rode out her searing pain in solitude”.

But when the 30-year-old shared the shocking image on Facebook he received a mixed reaction after it reached half a million people in just 24 hours.

He told the Daily Mail: “We knew the photo would challenge people, that it would evoke strong emotions.

“And I battled with myself: should we share this? But I knew it needed to be seen.

“So many photos show smiling bald children in hospital wards surrounded by santas, actors and celebrities, their happy faces full of hope, which is uplifting.

“But this is not the everyday face of childhood cancer, which is brutal and painful and shocking.”