Dr. Geary has made it her mission to help menopausal women deal with their issues directly and with confidence
“I’m boring,” insists Candice Geary, MD, with a laugh, as she sits in her office at TotalCare for Women in Chesapeake. But as the newest addition to TotalCare’s staff of dedicated physicians begins tossing out bits and pieces of biographical information, “boring” is hardly the word that comes to mind.
A native of Buffalo, New York, she became a Navy nurse in 1971 during the height of the Vietnam War. “I had an aunt who was a nurse and she served as a role model for me,” Dr. Geary explains. “In the Navy I worked all over the country and in Japan.”
After her years in the Navy, Dr. Geary worked as a labor and delivery nurse at DePaul Hospital in Norfolk. Earning a Master’s Degree from Old Dominion University, she then went on to become a Nurse Practitioner. Later, when she was the mother of three children, she decided to pursue a career as medical doctor, completing her education at Eastern Virginia Medical School.
“I put myself through medical school working as a nurse and as a reservist during Operation Desert Storm,” Dr. Geary recalls. “I was one of the oldest students in my class, and I remember the other students — all kids — asking: ‘Why do you have to work?’ And I told them, ‘Because I have three children to support.’ When it came time for my residency, we moved back to Buffalo. I had elderly aunts and a sister there, and I thought doing my residency there would give my kids a chance to get to know them. Upon completing my residency program, we moved to Chesapeake, where I went into private practice.”
“Most women going through menopause still feel very much alone. They think that what they’re going through is unique—and this only adds to a sense of embarrassment. But no woman has to suffer in silence. All of us get older, and these types of issues are just part of that process.
Since that time, Dr. Geary has also worked at the Chesapeake Care Free Clinic for 15 years, serving on their board for much of that time. She is also a member of Medical Ministries — an organization dedicated to transforming lives by training, supporting and empowering health care professionals working with the world’s under-served populations. “And I’ve served on medical mission trips to the Dominican Republic,” Dr. Geary adds.
Given her circuitous route to becoming a physician and the diversity of her experiences in medicine, one can be forgiven for rejecting the good doctor’s claim that she is boring.
Most recently, Dr. Geary has joined the team of dedicated physicians at TotalCare for Women. “TotalCare for Women is a wonderful practice,” she says. “Over the past 15 years I’ve had the opportunity to work with these physicians on different occasions, and I am thrilled to now be in practice with them.”
As part of the TotalCare for Women practice, Dr. Geary continues to deliver babies as well as care for all aspects of women’s care.
For their part, the entire staff at TotalCare is thrilled to have Dr. Geary on board, and they are certain that patients will feel the same way once they meet her.
Dr. Geary’s demeanor is relaxed and unpretentious; her approach to conversation is direct and frank. Add to this a warm, ready smile and a laugh with a distinctly earthy quality, and Dr. Geary’s persona is that of someone who puts others at ease and invites them to open up. These qualities serve her well given one of her main interests as a physician.
“I’m very interested in treating menopausal women, because their issues are often ignored,” she explains. “After all the fantastic breakthroughs that have been made in medical treatments for women, there is still a stigma attached to women talking frankly about menopause.
“Most women going through menopause still feel very much alone. When you’re going through menopause, the messages you get are, ‘You’re old.’ Or: ‘Suck it up and don’t complain.’ If a woman has an issue with bladder control, or if she starts to experience pain during intercourse, she’s embarrassed to talk about it. When women do get together and talk about menopause, they’ll talk about having hot flashes or about the emotional ups-and-downs, or feeling irritable, but not about these other more personal issues,” Dr. Geary notes.
“And so they end up feeling alone, thinking that what they’re going through is unique — and this only adds to a sense of embarrassment,” she continues. “But no woman has to suffer in silence. All of us get older, and these types of issues are just part of that process.
“So with my menopausal patients, I just come right out and ask them about these sorts of things. Are you having problems with bladder control? Are you experiencing pain during intercourse? Some of them are shocked at first, but then they feel such relief because they’ve actually been given permission to openly discuss things that have been bothering them — and discuss them with a doctor who understands what they’re experiencing. And there’s no shame attached — no embarrassment whatsoever.”
Dr. Geary also advises women to pay attention to their bodies in the years leading up to menopause (perimenopause).
“During those years, when a woman is still in her forties, she can start to see changes — such as irregular cycles and hot flashes,” Dr. Geary explains. “Usually these are perfectly normal, but sometimes if these changes are intense, they could be indications of a problem. Either way, this is a good time to see a doctor.”
Recently, opinions have changed about yearly tests for various conditions. But Dr. Geary maintains that annual breast screenings are vitally important.
“One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lives,” she says. “In 85 percent of those cases, there will have been no family history of breast cancer. But with early diagnosis, there is an extremely high rate of recovery.”
Dr. Geary encourages women to embrace getting older and to deal directly with the changes that aging brings — without shame or embarrassment.
“Every day that I wake up, I’m older,” she says matter-of-factly. “Things happen. I’m going to change. Menopause is just one stage in that process.”