Father of cancer-stricken girl, 4, who broke the internet’s heart through a harrowing photo reveals he placed her in her bed for 24 hours after she died, read to her and cuddled her goodbye
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A heartbroken father, who shared his four-year-old daughter’s pain and suffering as she battled cancer through a harrowing photograph that captured hearts around the world, has today revealed he kept her body at home for 24 hours after she died.
Andy Whelan, 31, from Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, released a black and white image of Jessica grimacing and crying during chemotherapy to treat her neuroblastoma.
Just three weeks later she passed away on Sunday November 20 at 7am.
Speaking for the first time, exclusively to MailOnline, since losing his ‘daddy’s girl’, Mr Whelan said he and his partner, Nicky Prendergrast, 29, made the decision that Jessica should spend her final night in her own bed after she died. It allowed him to cuddle up to her and also read her favourite story to her.
Mr Whelan has struggled with deep depression since losing Jessica but said he treasures those last few hours.
‘With her passing on a Sunday, there wasn’t a lot of knowledge as to what was going to happen and the last thing we wanted was for her to be taken on a Sunday just to be laid on a slab in an environment we don’t know.
‘We had family that wanted to come down and say their goodbyes in the comfort of our home and our surroundings, not a funeral home and coffin.
‘On the Sunday evening I read her favourite story to her and we were able to cuddle up to her.’
Jessica’s body was picked up at 11.30am the next day. She was taken to Manchester University Hospital for a post-mortem to check she was healthy enough to donate her tissue towards a cure.
Mr Whelan, who is now backing a World Child Cancer campaign to raise awareness of a disparity in treatment across the world.
Here he shares the turmoil he and his family have faced in the last 10 months as they cope with the loss of Jessica. Mr Whelan reveals he has battled depression and suffered from nightmares.
He also confesses he is tormented by milestones and why the distressing image of her agony will forever serve a permanent reminder that he and his partner made the right decision to end her treatment and let her go.
She was robbed of her life on Sunday, November 20 at 7am, just three weeks after the harrowing snap was taken during chemotherapy to treat her neuroblastoma. Mr Whelan has had a long, gripping battle with depression since her death
Jessica’s last weeks were spent being nursed by her parents and sleeping alongside them
‘For the last few number of weeks we had moved her into our old bedroom and reshuffled it so she could be budged up alongside ours to sleep directly next to me.
‘We spoke in regards to us keeping her at home until the Monday so that we could spend that final time with her before she was taken from us.
‘So on the day she passed away, we moved her bed back into her bedroom and set everything back up again.
‘We had spent a lot of time with her in the final weeks and days at our bedside, but we thought it was only right that she was able to spend one final night in her bedroom.’
Battling tears, he added: ‘It’s hard to gauge, but when she first passed away there was almost a sense of relief because she’d been through so much, especially in those final two weeks.
‘The day she actually passed away, we’d almost been praying, begging for her to go to sleep and not wake up.’
Speaking for the first time since, Mr Whelan, who honed his photography skills as an escape from his gut-wrenching reality, said he and his partner, Nicky Prendergrast, 29, wanted her to spend her final night in her own bed
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