LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Special chemotherapy Barbie dolls are helping to give young cancer patients an emotional lift.
It wasn’t love at first sight for Grace Bumstead, 4, and Ella, a bald Barbie that wears wigs.
“When they first met, she’s like, ‘OK, I get what’s going on.’ But it gave us the chance to say, ‘Here’s a beautiful, smiling doll. It doesn’t have hair,’” mother Melissa Bumstead said.
Grace has a rare form of leukemia—the rate among children is roughly 1 in a million. She will endure high doses of chemotherapy over the next year and a half.
“She’s been amazingly brave. And we’re very, very proud of her. It’s not where we expected to be in life right now,” Bumstead said.
She said one of the hardest adjustments has been losing Grace’s blonde curls, but that’s where Ella came in.
“We bring [Ella] along everywhere to say, ‘This is what’s happening. This is what’s happened to Ella. This is what’s gonna happen to you.’ It brought it to her level,” Bumstead said.
Ella is now part of what the family calls Grace’s “inner circle of Barbies,” alongside Ariel and Rapunzel.
CBS2’s Kristine Lazar reports not every cancer patient is able to adopt an Ella doll.
When Children’s Hospital Los Angeles told Bumstead they only had six dolls to hand out, she created a petition to ask Mattel to make more.
In just three months, that petition had more than 100,000 supporters.
“Every 10 minutes, we had 1,000 signatures,” Bumstead said.
Mattel took notice and agreed to make more Ella dolls to distribute to hospitals throughout the country.
“If the pain that we’re going through right now can help someone else, it makes it feel like it’s worth it,” Bumstead said.
Grace’s oncologist said she has a 75 percent chance of being cured.
“The big issue is psychosocial. How will she view herself? How will she view the world when she grows up? Will she be afraid of the whole world because she thinks that leukemia will come back at any minute and end her life?” Dr. Paul Gaynon said.
Grace’s family believes Ella will help remind the young girl of the struggle she overcame and hopefully will never revisit.
“We really believe that God is going to use this to do good things in her life and to make her the kind of person that she’s going to fight for good things all of her life,” Bumstead said.
Mattel told the Bumstead family that they plan to distribute the Ella dolls in August. Their goal is to make new ones every year.