Special Barbie dolls help young chemo patients cope with treatment
Los Angeles, CA (CNN) - Special chemotherapy Barbie dolls are helping to give young cancer patients an emotional lift. One girl in California loved hers so much, her mom started a campaign to put them in the hands of other girls with cancer.
It wasn't love at first sight for Grace Bumstead, 4, and Ella, a chemotherapy Barbie who's bald and wears wigs.
Melissa Bumstead – Mother: "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.'"
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.
Melissa Bumstead: "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."
One of the hardest adjustments has been losing Grace's blonde curls, but that's where Ella came in.
Melissa Bumstead: "We bring her 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."
Now Ella is part of what the family calls grace's "Inner Circle of Barbie Dolls," alongside Ariel and Rapunzel. But sadly not every cancer patient is able to adopt an Ella doll. When Children's Hospital Los Angeles told grace's mom they only had six dolls to hand out, she sprang into action, creating a petition to ask Mattel to make more. In just three months, that petition had more than 100,000 supporters.
Melissa Bumstead: "Every 10 minutes, we got 1,000 signatures."
Mattel took notice, contacting Grace's mom and agreeing to make more Ella dolls and to distribute to children's hospitals throughout the country.
Melissa Bumstead: "If the pain that we're going through right now can help someone else, it makes it feel like it's worth it."
Grace's oncologist said she has a 75% chance of being cured.
Dr. Paul Gaynon - Oncologist: "But 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?"
Grace's family believes Ella will help remind the young girl of the struggle she overcame and hopefully will never revisit.
Melissa Bumstead: "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."
Mattel told the Bumstead family that they plan to distribute the Ella dolls in August. Their goal is to make new ones every year.