On January 1st, 2020 Paul and Carran Slapa received the worst news any parent could be faced with. Their daughter Eva was diagnosed with the rare form of brain cancer known as DIPG. At first Paul and Carran did not know the severity of the diagnosis, only understanding that Eva had brain cancer. Paul was devastated by the news but naively thought Eva could be operated on and eventually healed. After research of his own and multiple follow-up doctors appointments, the parents came to the realization that a quick treatment and recovery was unfortunately not the case for their daughter. DIPG is a tumor located in the pons and therefore is impossible to operate on. The doctors in the UK where the family is located told the Slapa’s to go home and make memories with Eva because there was nothing they could do to treat her ailment.
Eva’s father Paul was not satisfied with the fact that there was nothing the NHS (National Health Service) doctors could do to help save his daughter. He scoured the internet looking for clinical trials but could find none in the UK. Eva spent the next 12 months battling DIPG being treated with only radiotherapy in an attempt to lengthen her time with her family. Even during her fight she was still a vibrant young girl who loved arts and crafts, baking, as well as participating in singing and drama. She loved to watch the Nickelodeon shows Victorious, and The Thundermans as well as Gordon Ramsay Kitchen Nightmares, a show that her father admitted may have been a little outside her age range. Paul said he and his family were lucky that the symptoms Eva faced from DIPG were more mild then some until the final months of her passing. Eva was known for her infectious smile that would light up any room she entered. However, nearing her rest in January of 2021, the facial tremors associated with DIPG even took Eva’s smile away from her. During this time her father Paul was having his own battle with the emotional struggle of his only daughter’s fatal diagnosis. He battled with feelings of helplessness to protect his only daughter and looked for other ways to get her treated outside of the NHS. When he would approach Eva’s doctors about possible treatments or clinical trials that seemed to be effective, he was met with a lackluster response from doctors who seemed to not be interested in the challenge of tackling Eva’s disease. Despite making every effort he could, on January 8th 2021, Eva finally had a rest from her battle with DIPG.
Since Eva’s passing the family has started the Unbeatable Eva Foundation to help support other families around the world who are impacted by DIPG. They have undertaken two main projects to help others in the DIPG Community. The first is of course what every foundation does, fundraising. Paul, who now heads the foundation, has large goals for what it can do to help those affected by DIPG. Due to COVID lockdowns in England, the impact the Unbeatable Eva Foundation has been able to have so far has been limited. However, in the near future Paul hopes to hold fundraising events that include half marathons, band nights, quiz nights, sports dinners, and a summer festival night. Paul has said that the foundation is just starting to ramp up and they are well on their way to putting these big ideas into action. The other way they plan on helping families is through sending gift boxes to children with DIPG to bring a smile to their face. The foundation has already been extremely active in this endeavour and has partnered with Millingtons Paper, a family run local company who was kind enough to donate all the packing paper for the foundation gift boxes.
Paul said he was extremely humbled by the support he had received from his local community when Eva was battling DIPG and even now through his foundation. When I asked Paul what his end goal for the foundation was, he said, to bring clinical trials to the UK and ultimately to find a cure for DIPG. He did not want any parent to have to go through the hopelessness he felt when trying to find treatment for his daughter where there was none.
By Trevor Dominy