A heartbroken father, who shared his 4-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 died, on Sunday November 20 at 7am, according to Daily Mail.

Speaking for the first time, exclusively to MailOnline, since losing his "daddy's girl", Whelan said he and his partner, Nicky Prendergrast, 29, decided 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.

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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 examination to check she was healthy enough to donate her tissue towards a cure.

Jessica (pictured with her father) was diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma in September last year. Photo: Facebook/Andy Whelan
Jessica (pictured with her father) was diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma in September last year. Photo: Facebook/Andy Whelan

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 past 10 months as they cope with the loss of Jessica. 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.

Jessica's last weeks

"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.

Jessica pictured going to see Disney's Frozen on Ice. Photo / Facebook
Jessica pictured going to see Disney's Frozen on Ice. Photo / Facebook

"The day she actually passed away, we'd almost been praying, begging for her to go to sleep and not wake up."

Ten months after the death of his daughter, Whelan, a second-year photography student at Blackburn University, is only now beginning to come to terms with her death.

In the time that has passed, he has been gripped by depression, tormented by nightmares of Jessica in some of her worst moments and had to endure hard milestones - of her birthday and his.

Only when he feels strong enough is he able to look at pictures of Jessica. Even videos of the youngster in the run-up to her death remain unwatched because to hear her voice saddens him.

Whelan, who was only getting five hours sleep each night, told MailOnline: 'We're starting to get over that [her death] now. Obviously I've been through things in life before, but nothing like this.

"This wasn't just bad moods, this was a severe depression that no matter what I did, I couldn't physically get up and do things, I was just functioning, basically surviving."

It was only when his best friend pulled him to one side and said he needed help because he was a "shadow" of his former self that he sought help.

In May, doctors gave him antidepressants, which took two months to kick in. Despite the medication, and taking up jiu jitsu to keep his mind busy, he has said he won't ever be the same man.

Whelan, who is beginning to get his energy back from such a gruelling experience, added: "I'm never going to feel like that fully, because Jessica was such a massive part of who I am and who I've become.

Jessica spent so much time in hospital, she made friends with other children on the ward, and formed strong bonds with the nurses. Photo / Facebook
Jessica spent so much time in hospital, she made friends with other children on the ward, and formed strong bonds with the nurses. Photo / Facebook

"It's hard to remember Jessica in any kind of happy state, the good memories can be quickly taken over by the more recent ones, the pain and the suffering. There were some nightmares and dreams that would wake you up.

"It was memories of Jessica and they were almost surreal. They were of her coming to the side of my bed like she used to, but followed by flashing images of after she passed away."

Whelan added: "This Saturday is two years since she was diagnosed, in a couple of months it'll be a year since she passed away, so we are going to hit some hard milestones.

"We've had some already, her birthday in January this year was extremely hard. So was my birthday [June 31], I didn't even celebrate because I couldn't.

"I couldn't celebrate it for my own sake at the time, because of the thoughts of last year's birthday with Jess, and those beforehand, obviously had a big impact."

Whelan is now backing a World Child Cancer campaign to highlight what children can achieve if they are given the gift of growing up.

'We took the photo to remind us we made the right decision'

Whelan never intended to publish the harrowing picture that went viral and touched the hearts of strangers across the world, from Colombia to Russia, weeks before Jessica's death in November last year.

Instead, he and his partner released the candid photograph to remind themselves the decision to stop treatment early was the right one - to rid her of the unbearable discomfort she had to endure.

Doctors said the treatment she was undergoing would have prolonged her life by a couple of precious months - but Whelan said the physical cost wasn't worth it.

Jessica Whelan's plight came to the public attention when her father Andy Whelan published a distressing black and white image showing the little girl grimacing in pain. Photo: Facebook/Andy Whelan
Jessica Whelan's plight came to the public attention when her father Andy Whelan published a distressing black and white image showing the little girl grimacing in pain. Photo: Facebook/Andy Whelan

He told MailOnline: "I didn't set out to take the photo that has become so well known, it was a moment of her being in massive amounts of discomfort.

"In all honesty, we were never going to publish that, it was taken because we had some extra decision to stop her treatment. It wasn't working anyway, but we could have prolonged her life by a month or two, but at what physical cost to her?

"I wanted to capture the moment of her in pain, so if we ever had any doubts in the future, we could look back on that record and know we made the right decision and remind ourselves of what she went through."

Jessica was diagnosed with a stage four neuroblastoma in September 2015, despite doctors initially blaming a bone infection for the pain she was enduring in her arms and shoulders.

Her treatment was stopped last October, in a desperate attempt to allow her to enjoy whatever time she had left, and doctors gave her just weeks to live.

Even a clinical drug trial was unable to stop the tumour from ravaging her body, prompting doctors to turn their attention to treatment that would prolong her life - not cure her.

The family had aimed to raise £20,000 ($36,800), but the target was smashed in a matter of hours after the photograph - which her father described as the "true face of cancer" - was published on Jessica's blog, which now has 136,000 followers.

Whelan was bombarded with more than 3000 emails, Facebook messages and texts from wellwishers all over the world since the photograph was published, including former One Direction star Harry Styles who granted her dying wish of recording a video message for her.