As a photographer, Andy Whelan understands the importance of capturing the truth of any situation, even if it isn't always a pleasant sight.
The hardest photo he has ever taken was of his own daughter, just days ago, after she was given the news that she most likely only had weeks to live. At just 4 years old, Jessica has been waging a difficult war against cancer for the past 12 months after being diagnosed with stage-four neuroblastoma.
As upsetting and tragic as this black-and-white photo of Jessica is, Andy Whelan made the decision to post this image to share the truth about childhood cancer in a way that his words could never express. He shared his rationale on Facebook as well as made it clear that he offers no apologies for strangers who are offended — this is something that Andy, his family, and many others battling childhood cancer have to see every day. He wrote:
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…
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 …
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.