It’s a sight no parents want to ever see — their child in pain.
Unfortunately, it’s a sight Andy Whelan sees far too often.
His 4-year-old daughter, Jessica, has been battling neuroblastoma, a cancer often found in the small glands on top of the kidneys, for over a year now.
A few days ago, they were told Jessica likely has only a few weeks to live.
As a father and photographer, Whelan wanted to find a way to remember his little girl, but it was far more painful than he could ever have imagined.
“This is the hardest photograph I have ever made, it is in fact my own 4-year-old daughter,” Whelan said. “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.”
The dad decided to post the heartbreaking photograph on Facebook to share the “truth and the reality” of his family’s situation.
“Too easy it becomes to capture the joy of life whilst discarding the torture that we see,” he explained.
In the photo, Jessica fought back tears as she writhed in pain in a hospital bed.
“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,” Whelan said.
Nearly 10,000 people shared the photo Whelan posted and 6,800 commented to show their support.
“Thank you for sharing this heart breaking photo and story of your beautiful little angel,” one Facebook user wrote. “Such raw emotion and pain.”
“I think what you have done here is a tremendous act to raise awareness that more needs to be done to help cancer patients with symptom control and increase survival rates,” another commented.
Whelan believes the photo truly speaks louder than words.
“With this photo I do not mean to offend or upset, I do mean however to educate and shock those that see it in its context,” he said. “Perhaps by seeing this photo people not in our position will be made aware of the darkness that is, 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.”