Recent Newspaper & Online Columns by Kate Scannell MD

What to say -- and not to say -- when someone has cancer

February 23, 2014

Tags: what to say to someone with cancer, Bob Riter, communication guidelines cancer, Scannell, when your life is touched by cancer

By Dr. Kate Scannell, Syndicated columnist
First published in print: 02/23/2014

I was startled by a man's voice calling out my name in the doctors' parking lot. Turning toward it in the predawn light, I saw a physician-colleague fast approaching me, a wide-eyed look on his face. "Oh, my God!" he stammered. And before I could manage a response he blurted out, "I thought you'd be dead by now!"

It was my first day back to work after a long medical leave for cancer treatment. Having spent a year at home recovering in relative solitude, I was anxious about returning to my frenzied clinic job. (more…)

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The 2014 Winter Flu Olympics

February 10, 2014

Tags: 2014 olympics, flu season, annual awards, worst sneeze, Winter Flu Olympics, Flu Jeopardy, most atrocious cough, irony in the time of influenza

By Dr. Kate Scannell, Syndicated columnist
First published in print: 02/07/2014

It's time to announce the annual awards for Bay Area performances in this year's Winter Flu Olympics!

Even though the California flu season is not yet over, the competition to date has proved fierce, particularly for Most Atrocious Coughing Technique, and Worst All-Around Performance during a flu season. And it's hard to imagine anyone able to top my current choice for Lousiest Long Distance Sneezing, even if the existing flu season were to continue through May -- as it just may

That award goes to the sickly man who last November repeatedly blew his nose while standing behind me in a slow-moving hospital cafeteria line. When his nasal gusts began registering on my neck, I turned toward him with a public health message in mind. But then it all happened so fast, before I could say a word or shield myself and my cold shepherd's pie. In an instant, the man's body stiffened, his head flung back and forth, and he let loose a Goliathan sneeze that dampened more than my spirits. Every person and so-called "daily special" within spitting distance was similarly showered. In consideration of the enormous number of people he may have infected, he was additionally awarded a dishonorable mention in the Worst All-Around. (more…)

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