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

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straight talk about what I call Smart Sex
lists of diagnostic tests including those you can do yourself
solid medical advice about treatment options ranging from over the- counter and home remedies to surgery
translations of medical jargon into language you can understand
examples of actual medical test results
sketches to help you understand once and for all what's going on "down there"
advice about how to get the most out of the doctor/patient relationship
plenty of encouragement to help you find a fresh and positive
perspective about the inevitable transformations you'll encounter as you enter each new chapter of your life

In many ways, this book is even better than that hypothetical office visit I asked you to imagine. You can come back to these pages again and again whenever a symptom or a life change or a treatment decision prompts you to look for information and reassurance. You can also share the information across the generations in your family and among your friends. Women have instinctively been one another's "health buddies," confidantes, soothers, and healers since the dawn of human history. Now more than ever, as we are bombarded by information technology and hurried through our health-care consultations and procedures, we need to help each other by sharing our stories truthfully and becoming fully informed about our health as women.

Let's celebrate our bodies for the wonders of nature that they are. For one thing, they give us a statistical edge over men in the longevity department. They also give us the chance to choose to savor the pleasures of sex, to bring the next generation of babies into the world, and to nourish those babies with mother's milk. However, even if you are a woman who isn't willing or able to fulfill any of those biological functions—and I respect your life circumstances and choices 100 percent—you need to appreciate the marvel of your female body and learn how to keep it healthy. For example, the elderly nuns I treat as the primary care physician for the Cabrini Retirement and Nursing Home in Philadelphia need every bit as much care of their female organs and their "plumbing" as do women who have been sexually active and given birth.

Cabrini was the crucible of my crusade for patient power, in particular the need to collect your own medical records. When I first arrived there in 1981, the missionary sisters were overmedicated and their records were literally scattered all over the world, with most of the paperwork still in their mission countries. As I gradually gathered together what I needed to make accurate diagnoses and treat these women properly, I devised a method of record keeping that turned out to be the genesis of the Savard System I first made available in 2000 and which I continue to refine to this day. With the nuns' records well organized, I was able to help them benefit from the most alert, vigorous, and pain-free lives possible.

That's what I want for all of us. When we're healthy women in control of our wellness, we are far better able to sharpen our minds, pursue gainful employment, and just plain have a terrific time being alive with our partners, our children, our extended families, our colleagues, and our dear friends. That's why I want you to get past any reservations you may have about tuning in to your total self. I want you to do all you can to achieve optimum health as much as is possible for you. You owe that to yourself and to those who love you.

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