Jessica Whalen was only 4 years old when she was given just weeks to live. Like most 4-year-olds, she used to smile, laugh, and play. But not anymore.
These days, Jessica can’t hide her pain.
In 2015, Jessica was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma, a type of cancer that attacks nerve tissue. Not only was she diagnosed with cancer, but her cancer was very advanced. Symptoms include chronic bone pain and lumps around the body from tumors growing.
Though it’s one of the more common forms of cancer that babies and children face and treatment is available, not everyone with neuroblastoma has a good prognosis.
Jessica underwent treatment for neuroblastoma, but it took a major toll on her body. She began to lose weight, causing tumors to poke out from under her skin. Her health began declining further.
Jessica’s future was tentative at best. Both the disease and the treatment were wreaking havoc on her young body. Tragically for her and her family, things were beginning to take a turn for the worst.
When she was given just weeks to live, Jessica’s father Andy made a bold choice. He saw his young daughter in pain—not laughing and smiling like she used to. She was facing one of the toughest parts of life, the possibility of death.
So Andy took a picture and shared it on Facebook.
As a photographer, Andy is used to documenting life through picture. He decided to use his chosen medium to communicate something he felt was missing as his daughter was slowly dying.
He felt there weren’t enough images about the struggles families undergo when a child has cancer. Often images of cancer are pictures of ribbons and events that raise money for research. Andy wanted to show the darker side, the side with pain and suffering, because it’s what cancer really looks like.
When he shared his photo he wrote, “I could try and use a thousand words to describe this image that we as parents are confronted with on a daily basis but these words would fall short of truly depicting the sight we see. With this photo I do not mean to offend or upset, I do mean however to educate and shock those that see it in it’s context.”
“Perhaps by seeing this photo people not in our position will be made aware of the darkness that is childhood cancer, 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.”
Though difficult to look at, Andy’s intention in sharing the picture is to really show parents what cancer looks like for their young ones. And he wants people who don’t have to deal with cancer to recognize exactly how heartbreaking it is.
Watch the video below to see the picture of young Jessica.
Do you think Andy was right to share this image? Do you believe the photo accomplishes what Andy wants it to?
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