A LITTLE ABOUT ME

Hello; my name is Patricia Leonello Ferro.  We all have a story and it is our life’s mission to turn our struggles into purpose. I have learned so much by becoming my own health advocate, I have decided to share what has helped me and my family by creating Mom’s Story Blog and Cookbook. I am dedicated to helping others have fun with food and lifestyle changes. 

A little about me: I was born in the Finger Lakes region of New York in a small town called Auburn.  I come from humble beginnings as an Italian American with Sicilian/Calabrese roots. My whole world was within a 1 block radius of Auburn, complete with my school, Italian immigrant grandparents next door, and friends.  My parents, Rose and Carmen, were old-fashioned, extremely hard-working, and taught us early on what is important in life.  As proud of being Italian as I am, my mother was ridiculed for her ethnicity when she was a young girl growing up in Auburn. So much so, she didn’t even speak in Italian at home so us kids could be “normal” Americans.  Italian immigrants had a lot to overcome, like many other cultures. Both my parents worked hard to make sure we had food and necessities and their strength has taught me a lot about tenacity. 

I loved my parents, my small world in Auburn, and my 2 brothers. I guess you could call me a tomboy, but as a young girl, I just wanted to keep up with my older brother. My small childhood home was large with loving memories and made me who I am today. 

The irony is I was not a young woman who dreamed of having a husband and desiring children. However, as fate would have it, I did marry an Italian immigrant who moved to America when he was 19.  We were blessed with 2 sons, Tony and Franco, and raised our family in Auburn. Eventually, we did move to Western New York due to our business needs. Ironically, my family was in the pizza business- so, making the transition to clean eating was far from easy at first. But, Auburn will always be “home”. 

I realized when I was a young girl I had a creative mind.  I have loved Art class since I started grade school. I loved art and I was creative all throughout high school. I always had good grades and teachers often complimented on my creativity. I ended up taking commercial art for a few years, in hopes it would lead into the creative design space. I was very interested in interior design and fashion. I have many memories of redesigning my parents’ living room and made the best out of the clothes we had! I knew my parents did not have the means to further my art interest after high school, so I began working as a waitress. Eventually I worked at an assisted living facility in hope to save for college. I met the man I would marry and we started a family, Although my path changed, what seemed to be over night, I never lost the desire to be creative! I loved to decorate our houses and make them into our homes, two of those houses I designed the floor plans. I had aspirations to open a small boutique one day. I have no regrets becoming a full-time mom and wife. I never lost who I was or my passions, I did however change what those passions were.

 

Over time my plate became my pallet. My art and creativity went into cooking and baking, and even changed yet again when my son was diagnosed with MS. There is so much more that goes into my story. But, as any mother or parent will tell you, the sacrifices you make for your family are something you can't plan. I was devastated when my son was diagnosed, all I knew about MS  was what my mother's friends had gone through, and it was never a good end result. My son was always a fixer no matter the situation, and he became determined to fix his new found illness. He often tells me the tears I shed and the look on my face when we got the news was his driving force and motivation to make things right. We knew nothing about the disease let alone how to fix it. In the beginning, I was against the decision of not going on medication and he always told me that he could go on one at any time but he wanted to learn first then decide. It was not an overnight success or change it was a lot of trials and errors. He had many flares, lost a lot of function but that just made him want to work harder on himself, when he began to heal, my heart was at ease. His journey ignited me to do all I could to keep going! I am grateful for where it has taken us as a family and now my creativity can be shared in different ways through food. You can say it has been a bittersweet journey that brought my son and my family to a healthier way of life.  

 

When I became a Mom, I realized I was very much my mother’s daughter; I wanted to do everything she did for us and live up to her amazing example. She was a devoted Mother and Mama bear and being a mom came naturally to me.  Although I never dreamed of marriage and kids, I took it seriously and was married at 21 and was barely 22 when I gave birth to my first child Tony and was 26 when I had Franco.  I was blessed and amazed by my children. 

With the good, comes the not so good in life, and I was diagnosed with Cervical/Uterine cancer at 26, while I was pregnant with Franco.  I was told I will never have any more children and was advised I may not be able to carry my child to birth.  I adamantly told my doctors I will complete my pregnancy and thankfully, he was born healthy.  Sadly, within a year of Franco being born he experienced a host of health issues and the doctors suspected Leukemia. 

 

Thankfully, it was not Leukemia; however, he underwent Platelet Therapy for a full year.  I look back now and wonder how we got through all of this; but as we all do, we just take it day by day.  No woman wants to worry for their unborn child, their own health while pregnant, and have the choice of having more children taken away from you- was a tough time, to say the least. 

Then at 42, I had my next round with cancer: Thyroid Cancer.  They found a massive tumor on my Thyroid and I had it surgically removed.   Regulating my body without my Thyroid and learning more about the connection between my lifestyle and my health started to pique my interest.  Both my kids had health situations and we always navigated through them because we were able to “fix” them thankfully. 

Fast forward to my 1st born tested and eventually diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis from 2011-2013. Tony started experiencing symptoms long before his official diagnosis; his walk was off, had poor balance, trouble gripping objects.  Moms know when their child is “off” before they mention anything and I would ask questions, but never vocalized noticing these changes in him.  Tony was never a complainer, so when he finally mentioned his struggles with gripping items and his body going numb when he looks downward, I knew it was time to call a Neurologist and make an appointment.  Tony called me immediately after his appointment and said the doctor told him he had MS; mind you, no test was completed as of yet and that determination was made from Tony’s symptoms alone.   Then all the diagnostic tests began and I called another doctor to gain a second opinion; all tests pointed to MS.  My son elected to get a Spinal Tap and the final test concluded my fear: My son has MS. 

There is no greater pain than seeing someone you love more than anything experience physical symptoms inhibiting everyday life.  Tony lost eyesight, use of his hands, cognitive issues, trouble walking, bladder numb so didn’t know when to urinate, etc.  And he had the same tenacity I was proud to have in my family: the ability to push yourself no matter what.  However, in this situation, I wanted him to slow down and not work the long days in our pizzeria and focus on healing.  Tony elected to stay off medicine after seeing the undesirable side-effects and started studying a natural approach to treating MS.  We started to explore functional MD’s and this is when I completely overhauled our family’s habits.  

Now for those of you who think our lifestyle changes were easy for us, allow me to remind you, I was raised Italian and cooked and baked that way all my life.  My husband and Tony ran our pizzerias and we were accustomed to pasta, cheese, and pizza!  I basically threw out our pantry and learned why nutrient-dense whole foods fuel our body and why staying away from dairy, gluten, nightshades, etc can truly reverse illness.  We learned how to address the root cause of illness and not just mask it with medicine (we are not anti-medicine, we are for fixing the problem).  I created a way of cooking to feed our health, not destroy it! 

Tony went back to school and became a Nutritional Therapist Practitioner and a Certified Wahls Practitioner.  He also created a nonprofit called Change MS to help others coping with MS, feel supported.  Then my project started growing organically; I would cook for the nonprofit and talk to our members about healthy cooking.  Many kept asking for a cookbook and more assistance in achieving healthy lifestyle goals.  And this is how Mom’s Story was created.  I created a cookbook to house all compliant yet easy recipes (proceeds go to our nonprofit), a Facebook page devoted to teaching my tips and tricks, Instagram page to showcase healthy meal ideas, and now a blog to create community and support for anyone open to taking a deeper look at healing.  I have studied and will continue to study natural approaches to healing as well.  I now have interests in aromatherapy, reiki, nutrition and all things wellness. I am and always will be an MS advocate. My only real credentials are my story and my journey, I know what I've learned and applied worked for my family. I would encourage anyone to share thier story, there is value in experience.

I am beyond grateful to let you know both Tony and I are thriving; Tony and I both are free from medicine and use food and mindfulness to help create the best versions of ourselves.  Our efforts are rubbing off on my youngest as well.  Franco has seen improvements in our health and decided to be more mindful of food.  It is a process that takes time, and you can not force your family to change...you can just plant a seed and hope for the best. 

My intention is to reach one, teach one.  If one person is encouraged to rethink their eating habits, it is well worth it.  My son and I created this path together.  Initially, I was motivated to make these vast changes to help him heal; but in return, my health has improved drastically.  Tony still has some symptoms, but overall, he has been able to reverse almost all health issues.  So, at any age, you can relearn habits and thrive.   We now have doctors referring their patients to us, conduct virtual group coaching programs, teach in-person classes, and try our best to keep learning and then passing what we learn on to others.  We both share the same passion for helping others and I am so appreciative of the opportunity that came from chaos. 

 

We now take life day by day and feel empowered knowing that together we can change MS, ourselves, have more control over our well-being, and make a difference in our community.  

Keep in mind I am a mother, much like any other mother who would do the same for their children. I am a humble person who feels for any mother in any situation..this is my story...MOM’S STORY. 

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My family at Change MS Ball

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Carmen, my Dad

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My mom with my boys

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Siteseeing with Dr. Terry Wahls

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My kids and my parents

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Kristen, Tony and Me

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My parents: Carmen and Rose

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1st time meeting Dr. Terry Wahls

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My soul sister: Paleo Boss V

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Tony and Franco

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Our business

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My family

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My older brother and cousins

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Our love: Giovanni aka Gio

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Fundraising for Change MS.org

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Celebrating Mike's birthday

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Tony and Franco

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Me and my youngest

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Little Franco

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Me and Tony at Hotel Henry for my birthday

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Tony, Franco and me

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Tony always smiling

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Birthday celebration

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Tony and me with Paleo Boss aka V