Excerpt: 'Ask Dr. Marie,' by Marie Savard

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Having said all of that, I want to add that I started my career in medicine as a nurse. During my years on the wards and in an intensive care unit as a critical-care nurse, I had the opportunity to develop personal connections with patients. I cared about them and I wanted to be an advocate for them. That was the beginning of my lifelong passion for patient power.

A turning point in my life came in an ICU late one night when a sweet, frail woman in her eighties with a brain tumor began the violent, rhythmic convulsions typical of a grand mal seizure. I knew she needed intravenous Valium, and fast. However, as a nurse I was not legally allowed to administer the medication without a doctor's verbal order. I called for the intern on duty and then waited what seemed like an eternity while the woman continued to twitch and shake uncontrollably. Finally a very young doctor, groggy from the sleep deprivation typical of all residents, arrived and insisted on doing a brief examination rather than take my word for what was happening. I felt utterly powerless and demeaned. In that moment, I knew without a doubt that I was going to find a way to go back to school and become a full-fledged physician. Like the vast majority of women of my generation and my mother's generation before me, I had seen teaching and nursing as my only two career options. My mother herself was a nurse and I followed her example. Yet my epiphany that night in the ICU in 1970, bolstered by the rebirth of American feminism that was under way, spurred me to enter the almost-all-male preserve of M.D.s. Looking back, I see that I knew even then that my mission would be to empower women as the guardians and nurturers of their own health.

To that end, women must understand their bodies and be tuned in to their personal health. I urge you to honor your intuition and emotions, including not giving anyone else's opinion or needs higher billing than your own, be it a partner pressuring you for sex or a doctor disregarding your questions and concerns. The "Golden Rule" asks us to "Do unto others as you would do unto yourself." I would argue that for women, we need to flip that around so that it says, "Do unto yourself as you would do unto others." What I mean is that you need to take care of yourself with at least as much devotion as you take care of everybody else. We tend to put ourselves last on our list of priorities but that's not good for those we love any more than it's good for us.

My "Golden Rule of Women's Health" applies to all of us at all ages and stages of our lives. Are you a teen who's only recently started getting your period? Are you a woman in your childbearing years? Are you a woman approaching or going through menopause? Are you a woman enjoying the decades of life after menopause that were denied to so many of our grandmothers and even our mothers before medical advances dramatically upped our life expectancy? Whatever the case, the following pages offer clear, comprehensive, and compassionate answers to your questions about sex, libido, hormones, and everything else that goes on "down there." You'll hear the voices of real women dishing about the intimate and sometimes funny details of everything from birth control to bladder problems to menopause. I'll give you lists of symptoms so you'll know whether to get help for those aches and itches and discharges and bumps.

You'll also find:

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