real life

"This brought tears to my eyes." The back to school photo touching parents all over the world.

It’s the photo that’s struck a chord with mums and dads all over the world – because it’s every parent’s worst nightmare.

Earlier this month, Julie Apicella from the UK shared a back to school photo of her daughter Emily to Facebook. On the left, Emily is pictured in her school uniform, standing in her living room in 2015. On the right, in a photo taken in 2016, the room is empty.

“School photo time,” Julie captioned the photo. “Obviously someone very special missing – my daughter Emily.”

Eight-year-old Emily died in December last year after a three year battle with cancer.

Emily in August 2013. Image via Facebook: Julie Apicella.

"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," she wrote.

Julie said her daughter "fought hard and strong for three years, with courage, stubbornness, bravery and facing more than most adults in a lifetime."

"She never moaned or refused to do anything we asked her to. We were constantly in awe of her strength and her fighting spirit."

Julie described that Emily passed away "peacefully laying on the couch beside me holding mine and Mick's hand, just as we have done since first diagnosed, and Nanny Pat beside her who was in the delivery ward when she was born and there when she passed."

"She has left a void that no one will ever fill."

Julie's oldest and youngest kids. Image via Facebook: Julie Apicella.

The post was intended to encourage friends and family to support the Go Gold Project, which aims to raise awareness of children battling cancer around the world. The project encourages people to add a gold ribbon to their Facebook profile picture for Childhood Cancer Awareness month. Almost 200,000 people currently support the campaign, and many more have likely adopted the symbol on their Facebook pages.

Julie's post has been shared over 8,000 times, and attracted many comments sharing sympathy for Julie's loss and support for her cause.

She wants the gold ribbon for childhood cancer to become as well known as the pink ribbon for breast cancer, and says that in order to tackle the disease, "raising awareness of symptoms and that childhood cancer is not rare is the first hurdle to jump."

Currently, one in 285 children will receive a cancer diagnosis, and one in five of these children will not survive.

Facebook's gold ribbon to raise awareness for childhood cancer. Image via Facebook: Julie Apicella.

Tragically, Julie also lost her step son James in late 2015. On her Facebook page, she wrote "I hope you keep Emily company and can hear the bickering from your cloud with her."

"You would often spend time playing on the iPads with her and even shared your doughnuts with her. She thought highly of you and would often talk with fondness whenever your name was mentioned.

"Can imagine you two will cause lots of mischief up there."

Hopefully by sharing Emily's story, Julie has gone some way towards raising awareness of this tragic disease.

00:00 / ???