“We dream to give ourselves hope. To stop dreaming - well, that’s like saying you can never change your fate.” --
Amy Tan, The Hundred Secret Senses,
Lyme Disease Survivor
Dr. Joy Stevens
I was born and raised in Billings and I am very proud to be a Montanan. I have left on several occasions to pursue education or employment opportunities, but I am always irresistibly drawn home again. Home is where the heart is and my heart belongs to Montana. If you have lost your doctor because they moved on to greener pastures, rest assured, there are no greener pastures for me.
My passion is helping those patients who feel they are not getting the help they need from other physicians, who feel they are not being heard, who want to understand what is happening to them and understand the "why" of their treatment plan, those who desire to part of the team and take an active role in their health journey and not simply have a doctor tell them which pill to take.
Although trained as a primary care physician, I don't practice as a primary care physician. I'm not an "on-call" physician available for emergencies. Rather, I am a specialist who supplements your primary care provider, but I don't replace that relationship. I especially enjoy working with patients who are willing to make lifestyle changes, because lifestyle is the foundation of health. Regardless of whatever else we may do, we will work on the foundations and if you're not willing to consider lifestyle changes, then we are not going to be compatible. I say this, because I have lived it and I know it works.
As a colleague once said to me, "sometimes the only way to 'get it' is to get it." I was the patient I described in the second paragraph above and it was because of the medical care I received, or didn't receive, that I decided to become a physician. If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem, right?
One of my earliest memories is of a strange bug bite that left a bull's eye target on my leg. At the time, I wondered if I should mention it to my mother, but I decided not to. Not that it mattered. This was the late 60s. No one then would have known what it was and sadly almost 50 years later, we still have that same problem in the medical community. It was the unmistakable erythema migrans rash from the bite of a Lyme infected tick.
I grew up, became a petroleum engineer and later an attorney, all while suffering a myriad of odd symptoms, some that seemed hardly worth mentioning to a doctor and were dismissed when I did. In my late thirties, the symptoms grew progressively worse until at the age of 44, I was diagnosed with MS. Five months later, after much research and a little bit of luck, I discovered I actually had Lyme disease. Unfortunately, the Lyme and co-infections had been with me for decades by that point and the treatment for MS included steroids. Anyone familiar with Lyme disease knows steroids are the worst possible treatment for a Lyme patient. Steroids severely depress the immune system leaving the host vulnerable to infections. For me, with my stealth infections, it was like being doused in gasoline, lit on fire, and thrown off a cliff.
After the steroids, I was so sick I had to quit work and figure out how to heal. I worked with an LLMD but the more I studied the illness, the more I wanted to take a natural approach. The more I took a natural approach, the better I felt. Then, three years after my misdiagnosis, I suddenly decided I wanted to go to medical school to become the help I was struggling to find for myself. I didn't want anyone else to have to go through what I had gone through. Not just Lyme, but any chronic medical condition. Two weeks later, I was in class taking prerequisites and by the fall enrolled in my first year of naturopathic medical school at Bastyr University in Seattle.
Medical school isn't easy under the best of circumstances and as it turned out, I had reactivated EBV the entire time, yet I didn't know it. After graduation, I was looking through old labs and discovered I had tested positive for EBV eight years earlier but neither was told the significance of that test nor treated for the illness. Imagine running a marathon with a heavy, wet wool blanket thrown over you, and pulling a plow. That's reactivated EBV.
Through my own journey, I know what it means to be chronically ill. I know the frustration of searching for solutions that seem elusive or non-existent. I know the struggle of trying to determine what advice is sound and what advice is best ignored. I know how it feels to not know who to trust. I understand being tired and just wanting to give up.
One of naturopathic medicine's primary tenants is "docere" or doctor as teacher. I see my job as teaching you what you need to know in order to successfully navigate your journey, regardless of your illness. When it comes to chronic illness, healing is a marathon, not a sprint, and the course is different for each person. It is my privilege to help guide you through your journey using a multifaceted approach, beginning with the foundations of health. I will always work for your highest and greatest good. There is always hope.