Amy Stenehjem, M.D. works as a Private Patient Advocate helping others navigate the often-overwhelming world of illness. Being both a physician and a patient, she has a unique perspective and understands the many challenges associated with illness. She is dedicated to using this insight to help those with chronic illness more effectively manage symptoms, improve quality of life, and discover joy despite their daily health struggles. Click to learn more about her work as a Patient Advocate.
Up until the last few years and despite being diagnosed with Autoimmune Ovarian Failure, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, and an Undifferentiated Autoimmune Connective Tissue Disease, Dr. Stenehjem was a busy physician, avid exerciser, and an active person in her church and community.
She graduated with honors from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota and went on to receive her medical degree from the University of North Dakota School of Medicine. She then completed her residency training in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Rusk Rehabilitation Center in Columbia, Missouri, with the distinction of serving as Chief Resident.
After medical residency, Dr. Stenehjem and her husband moved to the Twin Cities where she worked as a staff physician at Park Nicollet Clinic and later Physicians’ Diagnostics & Rehabilitation, specializing in the care of patients with musculoskeletal injuries, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, osteoarthritis, neck and back pain, chronic pain, and autoimmune related joint disease.
In late 2009, Dr. Stenehjem’s life began to shift dramatically with the presentation of periodic and peculiar episodes of a high fever, rash, swollen lymph nodes, sore throat, and debilitating fatigue. Each “fever episode” was followed by progressive shortness of breath. After the fourth episode in May 2011, she found that she was experiencing shortness of breath and dizziness with even minor activities such as walking a few steps.
Completely perplexed as to the cause of this mystery illness, her doctors in Minneapolis referred her to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Stumping physicians in numerous specialty groups over several months, she eventually received a diagnosis of Dysautonomia, specifically Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), a disease caused by damage to the Autonomic Nervous System which controls all of the automatic activities of the body (including breathing, blood pressures, heart rate, and body temperature). Later it was determined by physicians at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that the cause of the random fever episodes was a rare Autoinflammatory Periodic Fever Syndrome.
In 2012, Dr. Stenehjem developed a constant headache and sore throat, associated with extreme fatigue. In addition, minor neurological symptoms she had experienced for years, began to dramatically worsen. After two years of feeling this way, she was diagnosed with a Chronic Epstein-Barr Virus (essentially chronic mononucleosis) and Lyme disease.
In 2014, Dr. Stenehjem began treatment for the Chronic Epstein-Barr Virus and Lyme disease. Over time she has improved dramatically, and although she is still quite limited in her physical activity, she continues to grow stronger every day.
In 2016, Dr. Stenehjem created this website, Mastering Health & Happiness, to help fill the void of accurate, reliable, and useful information available online for those struggling with chronic medical issues. Her articles have been well received and featured on The Mighty and Huffington Post.