First off, apologies for using this platform to highlight this issue. But today, via my BlackBerry Passport, I saw the above photograph.
And it broke my heart.
As a father myself, just as many of you reading this will be fathers and mothers of children, we all know how, when your little one is ill you would gladly take away their pain and give it to yourself, even if it killed you, if it protected your little one.
In this case we’re talking about a 4 year old girl. She will die soon. No amount of money or good wishes or prayers will stop that, It’s pointless. There’s nothing the doctors can do for her. Her Dad posted the above picture on his Facebook page and I’ve represented it from the original Daily Mail article
The point of the photograph from her Dad, Andy Whelan, is a simple one. That if, by it’s very nature, someone, somewhere, saw it that was somehow in a position – now or in the future – to stop this happening again, then well, it would be worthwhile. Here’s what Andy put on his Facebook:
As a photographer it is important to capture the truth and the reality of a situation, too easy it becomes to capture the joy of life whilst discarding the torture that we see.
This is the hardest photograph I have ever made, it is in fact my own four year old daughter. A few days ago she was given what is most likely only a few weeks to live after a battle against cancer that has been waged for over twelve months. 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. This sadly, for us as a family, is not a sight that we see rarely. 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 girls blood vessels protruding from beneath her skin, a solitary tear running down her cheek, her body stiffened and her face contorted in pain.
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.
The only apologies I offer are to those that know Jessica, I understand that this photo is hard to see and even harder to absorb. To those that do not know Jessica I offer no apologies, this is what cancer does to a child in their final weeks and days!!! Before her diagnosis I was one of those ignorant to the darkness of childhood cancer, not truly appreciating the hell that it brings. It would never happen to us! Now I give childhood cancer the respect it deserves, seeing too many children suffering this same fate and watching families torn apart.
If this photograph only serves as a purpose to make people think twice about this evil and put into perspective what it does to a child then it has achieved its purpose. Research needs to be done, cures need to be found, too long now has this been allowed to happen.
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.
As you would expect (as a UTB reader and BlackBerry fan!) the post has attracted the usual mix of well wishers, nut jobs and conspiracy theorists. Oh, and of course, the trolls (it is the internet after all!) but as someone who doesn’t usually support ‘campaigns’ or stuff that ‘raises awareness’ what struck me was the absolute honesty in Andy’s words.
It’s too late for Jessica. They know that.
Right now for other kids in this situation there is no hope either.
But maybe there can be. Maybe someone, somewhere, with some power or knowledge or money CAN make some difference, now or in the future.
That’s all they ask.
So if you dance with the devil that is Facebook, Andy’s page Jessica Whelan – A Fight Against Neuroblastoma is here (those of you who know me will be pleased to know I deftly avoided the massive ‘JOIN NOW!!!’ box that covered half the screen) otherwise all you have to do to help is please send no money at all to anyone. Ever.
Please just share this picture, or post, and maybe someone who can do something one day will see it and help.