How Dr. Joyce Choe, MD, MPH met us
In her own words, Dr. Joyce Choe tells how she met us:
Some of you may be curious how my coauthor, Mercy Ballard and I met. Amazingly, Mercy and I have only known each other for the last few years. We met in January of 2016, when I went to her lifestyle center, Years Restored.
As some of you may know, I struggled with chronic pain and progressive weakness for much of my adult life. These symptoms began around 1998, when I was prescribed a powerful fluoroquinolone antibiotic. This antibiotic was taken off the market almost immediately for causing liver failure and even deaths. In 2011, after taking another antibiotic and suffering a significant worsening of symptoms, I was diagnosed with leaky gut and put on an elimination diet—a diet where you avoid foods that you are sensitive to on food sensitivity testing. My symptoms significantly improved.
In 2015, I reintroduced soy, corn, and organic spelt back into my diet. I didn’t experience any negative effects immediately, but as the weeks and months progressed, the muscular and joint pain slowly returned. In addition, I developed gastroesophageal reflux symptoms.
The worst problems involved chronic sinus congestion. I had a chronic conjunctivitis of my right eye that caused me to have to wear glasses for about 6 months. I developed frequent bronchitis/pneumonia. I not only wheezed with exertion, but I fatigued with the mildest activity, like weeding the garden. The most alarming thing was that I had difficulty breathing at night when laying down to sleep. It would cause me to almost panic.
Every couple of years, for my annual check-up, I would try to see a different doctor, to see if there was anyone who might be able to give me more information about my health. I had already resigned myself to having chronic muscle pain, but the weakness and shortness of breath was frightening. No one seemed to have any answers. Some became rather cool and detached when I told them about my symptoms, and looking back, I can see that they probably didn’t believe me.
Sometime in 2015, I listened to the testimony of a man who had lost his mother and grandmother to autoimmune liver disease. He sought the help of a nurse by the name of Mercy Ballard and through her lifestyle education program, his own autoimmune liver condition went into remission.
I had a feeling that my condition had an autoimmune component and my curiosity was piqued. Most lifestyle programs deal with diseases like obesity, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and heart disease. I had not heard of a lifestyle program that specifically dealt with autoimmune conditions and I decided that I should attend. I called Mercy and reserved a spot for the January 2019 program.
The first five days of the Years Restored Program consisted of drinking teas, poultice drinks, green juices, and herbal tinctures. We detoxed with enemas, infrared saunas, mild exercise, sunbathing and massage. The last five days we were able to eat the delicious food that we were learning to prepare.
On the third day of the program, I woke up and decided to take a quick walk outside before the day began. As I walked, I realized that I no longer had the hip and muscular pain that I had been having. Incredulous, I realized that I had no pain to speak of and I had not had any difficulty breathing to go to sleep the night before either! We all have moments to remember and for me, this was one of them: the moment I realized that my life was going to be different.
Since that visit, I kept in close contact with Mercy. I would call to ask questions that I had, but I also called to just see how she was doing or to tell her about a new idea that I had. We both got excited about the same types of things and we spoke and prayed together regularly on our long commutes. Topics that kept recurring had to do with how to help more people learn about the program, how to get them excited about getting better, and how to help them stay on their health journeys. We also brainstormed how to help people simplify food prep for the plant based autoimmune community and how to get healthy autoimmune plant-based food into fast food and convenience stores.
Initially, we were both encouraging each other as we did our own things—Mercy with the lifestyle center and me with the ideas I had for online wellness education. But as we began helping each other with our projects, it made more sense to partner up. I tend to have a lot of ideas, but I’m careful, cautious, and afraid of criticism—so I move forward slowly. Mercy has a lot of ideas and moves forward as soon as she thinks of them. We found that we were a pretty good team.
Mercy had wanted to write a cookbook for a long time. She had many clients who had difficulty maintaining their health after they left the program and she felt that a cookbook would fill that void. I knew that a book would take a lot of time and I had no desire to spend so much time indoors and in front of a computer, however, I ended up committing to the project. Now, when I read the reviews and hear from people whose lives are being changed, it makes it all worth the while!
I think that I thought of writing the cookbook as my good deed for the world—I’d write it and be done with it—but it seems that I am wrong. Now we are going to work on more projects together. We are actually going to get to work on those ideas that we brainstormed together on how to get healthy food for the autoimmune plant-based community come into mainstream. Hopefully, we can change hearts and minds as we move forward to help people learn that they aren’t helpless—we are able take back our lives!
Mercy Ballard— Is the founder and Director of Years Restored Lifestyle & Learning. In 2006, she was diagnosed with celiac and rheumatoid disease. Prior to her diagnosis she had been having rapidly failing health. By God’s grace she was able to recover and her condition is in remission. In 2013, the Years Restored Lifestyle Center was founded. Its aim is to help restore people physically, spiritually and emotionally. Years Restored is located in the mountains of Northern California, where she lives with her husband Anthony.