8-year-old diagnosed with brain tumor while visiting Utah

8-year-old Perryn Miller's parents say if they hadn't come to Utah for the holidays, they wouldn't have found out their son was battling a rare, aggressive brain cancer. (Photo courtesy GoFundMe)

A young boy visiting with his family for the holidays is now fighting for his life. He may not even have known he had the life-threatening disease had he not visited Utah.

8-year-old Perryn Miller is a pretty active kid.

“I like to play soccer, I like Pokémon cards,” he said.

But one thing he doesn't really want to talk about, he said, is "headaches" — and why he has a lot of stitches on his head.

“It's like, several hundred,” Miller's mom said.

His dad, Jacob Miller, is from Bountiful but the family live in North Carolina.

Jacob Miller said Perryn had been complaining of headaches for a few months before the family traveled to Utah for the holidays.

“Doctors there (in North Carolina) said it was his glasses and he would get used to prescription,” Miller said.

The family had recently lost their house in Hurricane Florence, and decided to visit family in Utah. There, a headache-plagued Perryn got even sicker — Miller said perhaps from the altitude change.

Perryn got really sick with migraines and vomiting, so his parents took him to the emergency room.

“They let us know he had a brain tumor that needed to be operated on immediately," Miller said.

Perryn was taken by the ambulance to Primary Children’s Hospital for emergency surgery. Seven hours later, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 glioblastoma multiforme.

"He's got a long journey ahead of him,” said Jacob.

The family has decided to stay here for his radiation and chemotherapy, while Perryn fights the disease, which doctors say is very rare and can be aggressive in children.

“He's strong; he will be able to do it,” Jacob said.

He's grateful the Millers came home for the holidays.

“If we hadn't come out here, we wouldn't have been able to catch it in the amount of time that we did," he said.

Dr. Nicholas Whipple is a pediatric neurooncologist and one of Perryn's doctors. He said of all the childhood brain tumors, 10 percent or less of children have the type Perryn has. The survival rate is 20 percent. But Perryn is starting off in the best-case scenario because his neurosurgeon was able to remove all of the tumor from his brain.

Whipple also said Perryn's chances of survival are greater because he was able to start treatment right away, and he feels good about the 8-year-old's prognosis.

The family does have medical bills stacking up. They've set up a GoFundMe to help pay for their son's treatments.

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