Emma was diagnosed with Wilms tumor — a common type of kidney cancer in children — when she was six months old, and she was quickly scheduled for surgery at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital to remove it. After a long, successful procedure, Emma remains cancer-free as an imaginative, adventurous 10-year-old.
The Cranstons’ experience at Doernbecher inspired Emma to embark on a venture to raise funds to support local pediatric patients. In 2020, Emma launched Sunshine’s Kitchen — named after her middle name — a handcrafted scone stand for passersby to purchase a delicious pastry. Now, her sweet creations have reached a new level with a partnership with Fred Meyer and Franz Bakery to raise $50,000. As a cancer survivor, Emma and her family want to impact “the place that means so much to us. It’s for the children and families because we were once there, and we want to bring hope to other people.” Emma’s mom, Angela, shares their story of how Emma’s cancer survivorship led to her latest entrepreneurial endeavor.
Read below for a transcript of Emma’s mom, Angela, sharing their journey.
“I am Angela Cranston, Emma’s mom, and Emma is sunshine. It’s also her middle name, but it is just the perfect word to describe the type of person she is. She radiates compassionate, and is kind and just all around amazing. She is a nine-year-old adventurer and she loves to try new things. She loves legos and just using her imagination and I swear she could build all day. She enjoys sewing, swimming, cooking, baking, hiking and delighting in picnics. She is an artist.
I was working a very part-time job at a bed and breakfast. My shift was over and I came home. After a few moments of being at home, I decided to go change Emma. I put her on the changing table and I noticed that her urine was brown. It was a Saturday, so I called the on-call nurse at her pediatrician’s office. She said it was likely dehydration, we gave her fluids and we saw her through.
Nothing was changing. We took her to urgent care, where she was diagnosed with a bladder infection. We were given antibiotics and through the week, the symptoms went away. She was feeling better. There was nothing in her diaper. On Saturday night, I was giving her a bath. I was observing my sweet baby girl, and I noticed that in the tub, we could just see like water gushing out and there was blood in it.
And so in that moment, I thought the antibiotics are not working. They’re covering up her symptoms. So, sorry. I’m getting slightly emotional. We took her to urgent care again and we saw this wonderful doctor, who was just so sweet to Emma. She asked us questions about the antibiotics and the symptoms, and she felt Emma’s abdomen. She re-diagnosed us with the bladder infection and instructed us to go to our pediatrician.
We went to see our pediatrician, Dr. Dixon. She did the exam and noticed that there was a mass in Emma’s kidney. The mass was the size of an orange. After the appointment, we went to the Neville building in Corvallis to do an ultrasound. My husband observed how kind the technicians were to Emma. They gave her a stuffed pig beanie, and he knew that something wasn’t right.
Later on, our doctor called us and she said that it was likely Wilms tumor, but they couldn’t confirm it until she went for a computed tomography (CT) scan at Doernbecher. A few days later, we schedule an appointment. We waited and waited and we were beside ourselves. It just it felt like we were in some weird dream, like what is happening to our child.
We sat down with a couple surgeons because we needed to get it removed before figuring out exactly what it is. They were 99% sure that it was Wilms tumor. They used the words “cancer” and “malignant.” They scheduled to do a surgery on her and get her mass removed. It was a very long surgery.
When she got out of surgery, there were health care providers around the clock, checking on her, checking on us and making sure our needs were met. One of the things that I remember when she was recovering is they brought in a beautiful purple blanket that she still has today. I looked at them and she [the nurse] said someone donated this and it meant so much to me. I feel like a lot of things that are happening today stemmed from that act of kindness. And when you’re going through something so big in your life, every little thing just expresses volume.
We are so grateful for all the people that we’ve met through Doernbecher because they were warm, kind and answered questions. Ultimately, they saved our little girl’s life. She’s a survivor today because of the people who cared for her through it all.
Emma opening the scone stand in 2020. She raised the question like, “Do you think daddy would build me a stand? I looked at her, and asked “Well, what kind of stand?” And we looked at each other, and said “a scone stand!” He, in fact, built her a stand. The first thing we did in July 2020 was make a couple of handmade flyers for our neighbors. We had a few of them come that first day that she baked a couple batches and tested it out. They were so good. The next week we opened it up a little bit more. We did something on Facebook, invited friends, and then, it was born. It became Sunshine’s kitchen.
When she started receiving money, we were thinking how could we put this money to good use? She would get some of the earnings, but she’s getting a good amount. We wanted to do something good with it. We talked about it as family and my husband, Josh and I were looking at each other, and said what would you think about donating to Doernbecher? She knew how much it meant to us We didn’t persuade her at all. We just talked about it and brought the idea. She said yes. We started putting 10% to the Doernbecher’s wish list because of the blanket that holds a special meaning for us. We want to give the kids something they can feel comfortable with, and a little glimmer of joy and hope.
These kids don’t all understand what’s going on, some won’t even remember, some will and some will struggle with it. Passing on that kind gesture is something that means much to us. As we all know, September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, so Emma donated half of her proceeds to the wish list. The first year, she made over $700. She went shopping and got all these stuffed animals to give someone to hug and hold. She got three boxes, carried them and looked like a child on a Christmas morning. We did it again last summer, and raised over $1,700 dollars. Now we’re doing it again this year with Emma’s donuts.
My husband works at Fred Meyers, and he was doing a work huddle. Dennis Gibson, the president of Fred Meyer, was there. Josh’s boss, John, said “why don’t you tell Dennis about your daughter and what she’s doing?” Josh explained that Emma was making scones and raising money for Doernbecher. Dennis was moved by it. He talked and shared with Josh that he would like to come up with a plan and give back. A few months later, we got a couple emails asking for pictures of Emma and share her story.
At the end of March, she had her first corporate meeting at nine years old. Fred Meyer shared they wanted to raise money for Doernbecher and partner up with us. They really impressed me with how they spoke to her, how they listen to her, and you could tell that they were inspired as well. They told her, we can’t mass produce scones. How do you feel about donuts? And she said “I like donuts.” She wanted yellow and red sprinkles, so it became a raspberry lemonade doughnut. The yellow sprinkles represent childhood cancer awareness, lemon and her middle name, sunshine. The red sprinkles represent the raspberry and her favorite color red.
Everyone’s starting to try the donuts, excited about it and sharing with people. That’s what we want because we want to reach our goal of $50,000 for a place that means so much to us. It’s for the children and families of Doernbecher because we were once there and we want that connection to bring hope to other people.”
On Friday, September 23, Emma and her family proudly presented OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital with $50,000, reaching their goal to support patients and families.