Jessica Whelan: Hundreds attend funeral of four-year-old who showed 'true face of cancer’

Jessica Whelan had been diagnosed with stage four Neuroblastoma 12 months ago

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The Independent Online

Hundreds of people have attended the funeral of a four-year-old girl who died from a rare form of cancer last week.

Over 400 people arrived to pay their respects to Jessica Whelan. A procession, led by her two favourite police horses, followed her pink coffin through the streets of Oswaldtwistle before arriving at the service held for her at Saint Mary’s church, The Lancashire Telegraph reported.

Jessica had been diagnosed with stage four Neuroblastoma 12 months ago, but her story became widely known recently when her father shared an image of her while experiencing her worst pain and suffering.

The arresting black and white image, which showed her crying in bed, was entitled “the true face of cancer” and was shared in a bid to raise awareness of the realities of childhood cancer.

Her death was announced by her father Andy Whelan in a heartfelt message on a dedicated Facebook page last week, in which he said he felt “both sadness and relief” in relaying the news.

“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 to 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 again,” he wrote. 

Ahead of Jessica’s funeral, Mr Whelan used the page to raise awareness of parliament debating a petition to increase funding for paediatric cancer research. The debate was held on the same day as Jessica’s service.

“Fingers crossed that the result of this debate is one that we all pray for and that paediatric cancer finally gets the support it so badly needs,” he wrote.

Neuroblastoma is rare form of cancer that commonly affects babies and children under the age of five. It is a cancer of the specialised nerve cells and is most commonly found in the adrenal glands of the abdomen, and the nerve tissue that runs alongside the spinal cord, in the neck, chest, abdomen or pelvis, according to Macmillan cancer support. Less than 100 children in the UK are diagnosed with it each year.

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