2017-04-27 / Front Page



ABOVE: North Road’s Doreen Furtado with her grandchildren, Cade and Ella, on Easter 2016. ABOVE: North Road’s Doreen Furtado with her grandchildren, Cade and Ella, on Easter 2016. There are hyperbolic miracles, such as the U.S. Olympic hockey team upsetting the Russians at Lake Placid, then there are miracles in nature.

Thirteen weeks into her pregnancy, Erica Shea was diagnosed with stage IV inflammatory breast cancer, a rare and aggressive disease with a median survival rate of 21 months. If the baby survived, doctors told her, it was expected to have trouble breathing.

Ella was born about six weeks premature, weighing just 5 pounds, 3 ounces. Although her tiny stature wasn’t a surprise to anyone in the delivery room, her lung capacity certainly was a welcome wonder to her family waiting anxiously in the hallway. No baby with serious breathing problems could sound like that.

“She came out screaming,” Doreen Furtado remembers through tears. “She was a miracle.”

ABOVE RIGHT: Furtado walks on Mackerel Cove Sunday to prepare for her 44-mile journey in June. ABOVE RIGHT: Furtado walks on Mackerel Cove Sunday to prepare for her 44-mile journey in June. Furtado, who lives on North Road, is Ella’s maternal grandmother. Josh Shea was raised in town by his mother and stepfather, Stephen Furtado. He attended Monsignor Clarke and Prout, graduated from the Florida Institute of Technology, became a civil engineer, then married Erica in August 2010. The couple had their first child, Cade, four years later. Within two months of Ella’s birth, however, the children were motherless. Erica succumbed to her cancer in June 2015.

Shea, now a widow in his mid- 30s, spoke emotionally about Erica in a remembrance video for the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation that was posted in September 2016.

“She was the most amazing person I’ve ever met,” he said.

Following her daughter-in-law’s death, Furtado helped her son through the roughest months. She especially became attached to the miracle baby during that time.

BELOW: The August 2010 wedding photo of Josh and Erica Shea. BELOW: The August 2010 wedding photo of Josh and Erica Shea. “I got physically, mentally very close to her,” she said. “I fed her at 4 in the morning. Whatever needed to be done. I was blessed that God put me in my son’s life to help raise those children.”

A year later, with Ella transforming from infancy to toddler, Furtado and her newfound free time drove to the Gloria Gemma headquarters in Pawtucket. “I just wanted to get involved,” she said. “I didn’t care if they had me sweeping floors.”

Since then, she’s volunteered her time, most recently four weeks ago during casino night at Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots. Her latest endeavor, however, is the first time she’s asking for money in her own name.

“It’s very hard for me,” Furtado said. “I’m excited. I’m emotional. But I’ve never asked for help. I’ve done things like this, but never for myself.”

Furtado, 61, is hosting a fundraiser Sunday to meet her $1,500 pledge for a Gloria Gemma walk at Goddard Park in June. GloriDays is a three-day journey covering 44 miles for women in treatment, survivors, families and caregivers.

Sunday’s fundraiser also involves a walk, although much smaller in scale. Walkers will meet at 10 a.m. at the Jamestown Golf Course. From there, Furtado and her supporters will take a leisurely trip up East Shore Road, turn around at the community farm, and return to the course for raffles, drinks and a barbecue. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased at Cathryn Jamieson Salon on Narragansett Avenue. Donations also can be made at the Gloria Gemma website.

“It’s not a race,” Furtado said. “You walk at your own pace. You socialize.”

The men, Furtado said, will probably bypass the walk and stay at the golf course. “They can do whatever they want, as long as they pay,” she quipped.

Erica’s death isn’t the first time Furtado and Shea have been affected by cancer. When Shea was a junior in high school, his grandmother was diagnosed with the disease. According to Furtado, her son did everything for his suffering grandmother during those hard times.

“He was very close to my mother,” she said. “He was the youngest of 15 grandchildren. Joshua was devastated when she died. But he helped with everything, no matter what it was. That allowed her to die at home. That’s where she wanted to die, and we were grateful for that.”

Her name was Eleanor, the namesake of the miracle baby.

Although Ella is too young to remember her mother, Shea said Cade knows where she is — he’ll point to the sky. “He knows that she’s always watching him and that she loves him,” he said.

For Furtado, she’s just glad to be there for them when their mother couldn’t.

“I have a bond with them. When I walk in the house, they yell, they scream, they dance. They have big blue eyes. Bigger than golf balls.”

How to donate

Visit GloriaGemma.org
Click on GloriaDays ’17 link at top
Scroll down, click donate
Select donate from left-hand menu
Search for participant, type “Furtado”
Problems? Call Furtado at 545-0674.

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