A FOUR-YEAR-OLD girl has lost her brave battle with an aggressive form of cancer after a final cuddle with her daddy.
Jessica Whelan, who fought the disease for 18 months, shared an embrace with dad Andy, their first for some time as she had been in too much pain because of treatment.
Heartbroken Andy announced yesterday that Jessica, from Oswaldtwistle, had slipped away, at around 7am.
Andy, of Stone Bridge Lane, said he felt ‘both sadness and relief’ as his daughter’s suffering came to an end, after she was diagnosed with advanced neuroblastoma, cancer of specialised nerve cells called neural crest cells, in September 2015.
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Her father and mother, Nicki Prendergast, had made the devastating decision to cease treatment for their little girl last month, as there was little hope of a recovery.
She was being treated at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital and the family had been supported by the children’s hospice, Derian House.
In a post on Jessica’s Facebook site, Andy, said: “No longer does she suffer, no longer does she feel the pain of the physical constraints of her body.
"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.”
Earlier he had relayed how he had been able to give her a final cuddle, where he kissed her repeatedly and told her it was ‘okay for her to close her eyes and go to sleep’.
Photographer Andy shared a heartbreaking picture of a pain-riddled Jessica, as part of her final struggle, to portray ‘the true face of cancer’, raising nearly £100,000 in charitable donations.
He said: “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.
“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 took her final breath.
“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.”
He thanked everyone who had supported the family in the 18 months since Jessica was diagnosed, including the Blackburn community nursing team and Macmillan Cancer Care.
Her parents have also agreed that Jessica will donate her organs and tissue for medical research.
Andy said: “The whole point of the final part of her journey was raising awareness and also trying to help as many people as possible, through research, so other families don’t have to go through what we have.
“If we thought we could do that then it would give us a little comfort.”
Jessica’s plight touched the hearts of thousands as Andy regularly detailed her painful treatment and resilient attitude.
Doctors had advised the family to prepare for the worst on a number of occasions over the last nine or 10 days, only for Jessica to rally but then deteriorate again.
She enjoyed spending time outdoors, before falling ill, and relished trips to see the horses at Accrington Riding Centre.
The couple, who also have a young son called James, have previously paid tribute to the support of grandparents Sharon and Struan Jackson and Nicki’s parents Marilyn and Geoff Prendergast.
Dozens of online tributes have been left on Jessica’s Facebook page.