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All across Facebook and other social media outlets this month, parents have been sharing back-to-school photos of their kids.

Maybe these kids are starting middle school or high school or kindergarten.

But the theme of the pictures are all the same: happiness, pride, excitement.


Julie Apicella, a resident of Walsoken, England, was among these proud parents in the late summer/early fall of 2015.

At the time, she snapped a picture of her eight-year old daughter, Emily, all dressed up in a skirt and sweater and smiling broadly.

She is ready for her first day of school.

The photo in question is on the left below, while Julie has contrasted it with a photo she snapped a year later; it is on the right:

Heartbreaking Photo
Photo via Facebook

We probably don’t need to explain the tragic reason why the right-side photo is blank.

In December 2015, Emily passed away, having succumbed to a three-year battle with a type of kidney cancer known as Wilms’ tumor. 

Apicella posted the side-by-side images on Facebook on September 7 as an emotional depiction of how it feels for a parent to live without her child.

It’s a pain no one can possibly understand unless he or she has also been in this nightmare of a situation.

"School photo time — obviously someone very special missing – my daughter Emily," Julie wrote as a caption, adding:

"Imagine if your school photo this year is the LAST you will ever be able to take and will just be a memory to remember."

Apicella didn’t share this photo and this message just to earn sympathy, however.

She had an important message she wanted to pass along as well. 

She asked all of her friends to change their profile pictures to a gold ribbon – the international symbol for childhood cancer – in order to raise awareness about this terrible disease.

"This could be your reality in the future," she wrote.

"One in 285 children will get a cancer diagnoses. Raising awareness of symptoms and that childhood cancer is not rare is the first hurdle to jump."

Within just a few days, Apicella’s post was shared over 8,000 times, leading to hundreds of gold ribbons.

For the ever-mourning mother, it is now her life mission to build awareness so she can help pave the way for better treatments and greater funding.

"My daughter ran out of options and we as a family had to watch as her cancer took over her body with nothing to try to cure her and that is tragic," Apicella told The Huffington Post.

"A parent shouldn’t bury their child, that isn’t the circle of life, and if awareness can change that for one person then it is worthwhile.

"The saying: ‘it won’t happen to my child, they are healthy’, is what every oncology parent said to themselves before diagnosis."

We grieve for Julie, we send along our thoughts and we admire how she has responded to the worst circumstance any parent can ever fathom being in.