Smashing Walnuts: The Fight Against Childhood Cancer

Child cancer is growing, yet experts can’t explain why. Gabriella Miller is one of the unlucky ones.

Gabriella Miller smashes a walnut on her porch in Leesburg, Va. The 10-year-old was diagnosed with brain cancer last November and started smashing walnuts to represent the battle against her tumor of the same size.

Gabriella Miller smashes a walnut on her porch in Leesburg, Va. The 10-year-old was diagnosed with brain cancer last November and started smashing walnuts to represent the battle against her tumor of the same size.

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She's also received warm personal letters from a number of politicians, including President Barack Obama, praising her bravery and dedication to helping others. On the last day of school, Virginia state delegate Randy Minchew showed up during an assembly and issued a proclamation from the Virginia Assembly recognizing Gabriella's accomplishments. While she appreciates the accolades, Gabriella just wants the world to know that kids get cancer too.

Ellyn, Gabriella, Mark and Jake Miller in their home in Leesburg, Va. in August 2013.

Tucked between her mother and father on the couch, Gabriella spews out cancer stats like an expert, noting that 36 kids are diagnosed with cancer each day, and four to seven die. "There's over $5 billion a year that goes to cancer [research] and less than 4 percent goes to childhood cancer alone," she states matter-of-factly. "If less than 4 percent went to leukemia, less than 4 percent went to brain cancer, that would be fine, but less than 4 percent goes to all childhood cancers combined. That's not fair. It's not fair for kids to have to go through this.

"When are these people going to start helping?" she asks, wondering: Will they have to hear, "Your child has cancer?'"

The Ultimate Wish

Soon after Gabriella's diagnosis, her mom likened the tumor to a walnut. The Millers seized on the comparison, prompting Gabriella to declare her proxy war. Her activism has had a demonstrable impact on those who've been touched by her. "The grocery stores around here are running out of bags of walnuts," her father exclaims. "Everyone around here is going out and buying them to smash."

But for all the hundreds of walnuts that have been bashed to smithereens, there's only one that Gabriella would really like to destroy.

"I wish we could take the pan to my head, and it would come right out," she says. "I really wish."

The Millers have started the Smashing Walnuts Foundation to raise awareness about pediatric brain cancer. Visit Gabriella's Facebook page to continue following her story.