Local girl’s death-defying dive leaves mother in tears

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(KWTX) A Central Texas girl with terminal cancer who has stopped treatment as the disease has progressed had her courage on display once again as she made a trip with her family over the holidays to an amusement park where she took an 80-foot plunge off the platform of a bungee jump.

Layla Evetts, 6, shown here with her mother, Amanda Perry, was diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma or DIPG, a very aggressive type of tumor at the base of the brain, in February 2018. (Courtesy photo)

Layla Evetts, 6, had to be carried up the flights of stairs by her mother, Amanda Perry, and stepfather, Luke, but that didn’t stop her from walking to the edge of the platform at Paula Deen’s Adventure Park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and taking the plunge.

Her mom says Layla faced the challenge the same way she’s stared down cancer since her terminal diagnosis of diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma or DIPG, a very aggressive type of tumor at the base of the brain, in February 2018.

“I'm proud of her, for in that moment, she was able to do something most of us are not able to do,” Amanda said.

“She's able to look at something scary and look past the fear and see that the scary thing could also be awesome. And she's willing to embrace the scary so she can have the awesome.”

Layla has been fighting the cancer through a clinical trial since her diagnosis and while she had many encouraging months that showed no new tumor growth and, at one time, even a major shrinkage of the tumor, her disease has recently progressed enough that doctors have stopped treatment.

“Honestly, she is very weak and she’s hard to understand now when she speaks,” Amanda said.

“She falls down a lot but she’s still smiling and very positive. She doesn’t let it get to her she just keeps trying.”

Amanda wanted to experience a trip with Layla while she was still able to travel. Over the holidays, they flew to Tennessee.

Amanda said Layla, who is an identical twin, is her “cautious” child and doesn’t like heights, which is why she was shocked when Layla spotted the harnessed jump called the “Timber Towers” and wanted to do it.

“She said ‘mommy I want to do it.’ And I said ‘are you sure? It’s kind of high.’ She said ‘I’ve done harder things.’ I said ‘okay let’s do it.’”

So with her family proudly watching, Layla sat down and scooted to the edge as a park employee counted down.

When she got to zero, Layla took the plunge.

“I cried,” Amanda said.

“I teared up watching her doing it. It took so much courage even for me and I’m grown. And she just did it. I encouraged her a little bit and without even hesitating she just did it. It was beautiful. It was inspiring to me as her mom to see her courage.”

Layla won the hearts of Central Texans who came together and threw a Gala for Layla in May of 2018, which raised more than $155,000 for the girl.

She caught the world’s attention this past October at the Heart of Texas Fair & Rodeo when singer and songwriter Aaron Watson made her the star of his show after he learned she was a big fan.

Layla’s mom says she bravely told her classmates goodbye and told them how much she loved them this week.

She’s expected to start hospice care soon.

Her family says, no matter the medical prognosis, they’re not giving up the fight and have a message for everyone who loves Layla.

“What I want to express to everyone who follows her story that to the bitter end we are holding out in faith that our God is bigger than this and that he will come through for her.”