Pia Whipps had been listening to her daughter Evie tell a story when she noticed something strange. The 10-year-old's eye began to flicker, moving left to right with speed.
The pair were at their Bunbury home in Western Australia on February 6, and that was the moment that changed the family's life forever.
Within a week, Evie had been diagnosed with a difficult-to-treat and aggressive form of brain cancer — diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG). Right away, the tumour at the base of her brain was deemed inoperable and she had close to a zero per cent chance of survival.
"Evie’s MRI shows the mass is attached to her brain stem that will grow rapidly, eventually squeezing and damaging her healthy brain tissue," Kasie Latimer, a family friend explained on a Go Fund Me page set up for the family, adding she'll now undergo six weeks of chemotherapy. Although it's not a cure, the treatment will hopefully "shrink the tumour and ease her symptoms".
"Unfortunately due to the nature of this tumour, Evie’s health and ability to function will decline and this awful cancer will take her from us long before she is due," Ms Latimer said. "No family can be prepared for such a diagnosis."
Evie's symptoms initially dismissed by doctors
When Evie's mum first noticed the involuntary movement in her eye, she rushed her daughter to the hospital, but she was dismissed six hours later without an MRI referral, she claimed. During an eye test performed by the doctor, Evie supposedly lost vision in her left eye, only for it to return during a second test.
Despite this, the mother and daughter walked away without any further treatment and were told to "get an MRI if she was worried". The next day, the concerned mum spoke to their family doctor who gave them a referral — however, she was unable to find availability.
By Thursday, three days after first noticing her daughter's eye, Evie's condition had worsened, and she was now experiencing frequent nosebleeds, and bumping into things and tripping over. Ms Whipps and her husband Josh, who was working out of town, made the two-hour journey to Perth's Children Hospital where they saw a doctor right away.
Mum 'collapsed' after heartbreaking diagnosis
An MRI was arranged the following Monday, and on Tuesday the family received the heartbreaking news. 10-year-old Evie had a tumour on the base of her brain. Ms Whipps told Yahoo News Australia she "pretty much collapsed" when she heard the gut-wrenching prognosis.
"Me and my husband just looked at each other in complete shock, it was as if we got hit by a bus," she said. "We just kept looking at each other saying this is not real, this is not our life."
Ms Whipps said she Googled it right away which proved a really pivotal moment. "I instantly knew it was hopeless," she said. "There was no cure, there was nothing [doctors] could do."
Money raised for parents after giving up work
At the time of speaking with Yahoo, Evie and her parents were staying in a hotel preparing to move into the Ronald McDonald House where she'll continue to receive medical care, including radiation.
Ms Whipps said they are trying to give their daughter "anything she could possibly want" just so she feels "as loved and content as humanly possible for as long as she has". She's desperate for a puppy and a caravan.
Mr Whipps was the sole provider for the family but has been forced to give up work so they can spend the rest of Evie's short life by her side. The family reached their fundraising target within days now surpassing their original goal of $50,000. The new target is $100,000.
They plan to use the money raised to ease the burden of having no income over the next few months as they enjoy the time they have left with Evie.
"All we have now is hope – I have to believe in miracles," Ms Whipps said on 6PR radio."I wouldn’t survive if I didn’t believe in it now. Just talking and thinking about it makes me feel sick."
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