December 1998


By Michael J. Katin, MD

This month's column marks an important journalistic milestone. This is the 24th consecutive monthly column, an accomplishment matched in few other web sites. It seems appropriate to use this slot for the obligatory discussion of the significance of the Millennium.

This also eliminates the trauma of having to explain that the end of the Millennium is the end of the year 2000, not the beginning. Times Square will be packed on December 31, 1999, by people who think the transition to January 1, 2000, is a major accomplishment. On December 31, 2000, there should be plenty of availability of events when, in fact, the true end of the millennium is occurring.

Please also note that regardless of the question of 2000 vs 2001, ten days in October, 1582, were eliminated by Pope Gregory XIII. I had also lost several days in 1972, not recalling how I wound up in Santa Monica, California, but since I wasn't the Pope, nobody cared. Suffice it to say, we could all be ten days off on any of these calculations regardless of whether you opt to go with 2000 or 2001. Much more importantly, if your individual religious convictions lead you to think that the end of the millennium is the appropriate date for the end of the world, this makes scheduling much more difficult.

The point of all this (and why this is in a radiation therapy opinion column) is that none of us knows when the end is coming. This means that as you go about your profession, think about which tumor board presentation might be your last. Think about which status check could be the last one you ever do. Of all the patients in whom it seems their treatments will never be over, how many will have the end of treatment determined by global cataclysm?

Then go out and do the best every day that you have to offer. Get your dictations done as soon as possible. Get the boost designed at the time of the initial planning. If you're doing simulations like there's no tomorrow, think about the chance there may not be. Getting all your plans and paperwork completed would also be the same if you were facing a JCAHO or ACR inspection, although in these cases, if you didn't pass, it wouldn't be the end of the world.

But to those who scoff at the idea that last call could be coming within the next one or two years, remember this: in the year 999, thousands in Western civilization were absolutely convinced that the coming of the Second Millennium would be accompanied by the destruction of the world as they knew it. Many gave up their possessions and altered their lifestyles and dedicated themselves to facing the prospect of the annihilation of the physical world. Some of these people were labelled as extremists and religious fanatics. Consider, then, that a recent computerized meta-analysis has determined, beyond question, that every one of these people IS NOW DEAD!!! A coincidence?

Addendum: An alternative approach to getting all your work done, with the anticipation that there won't be time later to do it, would be to just stop doing any work, with the anticipation that it won't matter. This is a valid approach. If you select this option, please e-mail your address and a list of your most active referring physicians to Dr. Peter Blitzer, at pblitzer@radiotherapy.com.

email: mkatin@radiotherapy.com