Breast Cancer: the surgery

(One part of this is not meant for the squeamish.  The indented part, one para above it and two below it might be a bit difficult to read, though honestly there isn’t any blood or anything.)

Well, been there, done that.

I have an unfortunate early history of being resistant to anaesthetics.  I realize that is almost unbelievable.  I have heard from medical doctors that they think I am not trying, as though one wants to be awake for surgery.  In any case, because of this the hospital recommended that I take some xanax before I even showed up for the operation.  And it may have been that pill which caused a puzzling recurring problem throughout the day.  What in the world does one say to the very many people who ask one, in an extremely cheery voice, “How are you today?”

Picture this:  it is 9 am and I’ve had no coffee or tea.  I go up to the admissions desk in a major cancer hospital, which is in a room with a lot of people getting cancer surgery.  This is not a happy place; there is no laughter or even really talk.  And so the admissions person asks, “And how are you today?” in that very cheery voice that indicates really that one needs to say, “Just fine, thank you.”  I simply couldn’t manage it.

So I said that I was feeling terrible, but thank you anyway.  She looked so surprised and taken aback, so something suggested to me I should say, “Actually, I am just joking.  I am really looking forward to have parts sliced away.” 

I really dislike the idea of making anything like fun of people trying their best to fulfill a function.  So perhaps it was the xanax.  But throughout the day people kept cheerily asking me how I was.  And then looking very taken aback when I said what I thought.   And then I’d try to explain.  Mind you, not one of them refrained from telling me what they thought, as when my surgeon shared the fact that she did not feel good about the operation.  She had thought a mastectomy was a much better cosmetic operation, though in the end in fact she obviously spent some time trying to get the best result with my preferences.  I thought she did a brilliant job. 

There are two difficult pre-op things they do.  One is to bracket the area to be excised with needles, as guidlines for the surgeon.  The other is to give one radioactive dye to trace the transmission from one’s breast to the lymph nodes.  The first involved using a mammogram machine cranked much more tightly than they do for mammogram and putting the needles in:

 Using a sterile technique and local anesthesia (1% buffered lidocaine), two needles (7 cm Kopans and 3 cm Hawkins ) were used to bracket the area in question in the upper outer quadrant of the right breast.  The approach was lateral to medial.  Following adjustment of the needle tips, the hookwires were deployed without difficulty.
The patient tolerated the procedure well and proceeded to the Operating Room in good condition.

There is one possible factual error here; I did not consider myself in good condition when it was over.  It was just awful.

What they do is push the needle in for a bit, then take a picture and then readjust, bit by bit.  The lidocaine does not cover 7 cm in; it seemed just to be topical.  I’d say the pain was close to that of childbirth.  Not everyone minds it so much, you should know. 

Apparently, putting in the dye is much worse, so they used a sedative.  In fact, it did not put me to sleep and apparently I objected all the way through, but any memory I had of it is totally gone.  It does funny things to one memory, the nurse said.  By that time, I’d had enough to remember, and I was interested in the idea of some part of one’s memory being totally just not there. 

I was thrilled to wake up from the operation itself with my mind clearly in tact, though missing a bit of memory.  I had just about no post-op pain, which now means I have a good supply of the dangerous and desirable hydroco-something or other.

The pathology report that I got yesterday had the terrific news that the margins were very good.  There’s some disagreement about how wide the margins should be, but this hospital tries for 1 cm, which is quite wide.  For now the cancer is gone and there is no need for further surgery. 

The rest of the news was bad and indeed alarming.  Though the cancer was largely dcis (ductal carcinoma in situ) and so encapsulated, scattered throughout that area were”innumerable” points of nasty bits that were microinvasive or outright invasive.  It was, in a word, multifocal.  None had spread to the lymph nodes, which was a huge good thing.  But mammograms and ultrasound were not picking them up, or at last nothing like all of them.  In fact, it took an MRI to register about 1/2 of the affected area. 

The official mammogram recommendations are now for testing every other year.  In August of 2010 I got a clear mammogram at a breast clinic which has a great deal of experience.  I don’t know where the invasion would be by 2012, but I might well be some ways toward its spreading at least into the lymph nodes. 

My partner, bless him, has stayed by my side through all of this.  That he somehow got the idea that it would be helpful for him to start telling me what to do seems now minor.  I think it was very hard for him to have so much so out of his control.

Breast cancer can leave one medicalized for the rest of one’s life, and in my case it may well do so.  The next steps probably will be radiation therapy and then hormone therapy, and frequent testing.  My version is hormone sensitive, so shutting down hormones can slow it way down.  Of course, the cancer officially counts as gone, but as many who suffer from breast cancer will tell you, the retoric about curing cancer and the reality of it are very far apart.  Of that more later.  There will be another reason to wish pink away.


This post is about the experience of one person who, though a regular blogger here, decided to remain anonymous.  The first one is here.  The second is here.

FBI teaches Islamophobia

If this is true, it’s appalling.

The FBI is teaching its counterterrorism agents that “main stream” [sic] American Muslims are likely to be terrorist sympathizers; that the Prophet Mohammed was a “cult leader”; and that the Islamic practice of giving charity is no more than a “funding mechanism for combat.”

At the Bureau’s training ground in Quantico, Virginia, agents are shown a chart contending that the more “devout” a Muslim, the more likely he is to be “violent.” Those destructive tendencies cannot be reversed, an FBI instructional presentation adds: “Any war against non-believers is justified” under Muslim law; a “moderating process cannot happen if the Koran continues to be regarded as the unalterable word of Allah.”

These are excerpts from dozens of pages of recent FBI training material on Islam that Danger Room has acquired. In them, the Constitutionally protected religious faith of millions of Americans is portrayed as an indicator of terrorist activity.

“There may not be a ‘radical’ threat as much as it is simply a normal assertion of the orthodox ideology,” one FBI presentation notes. “The strategic themes animating these Islamic values are not fringe; they are main stream.”

The FBI isn’t just treading on thin legal ice by portraying ordinary, observant Americans as terrorists-in-waiting, former counterterrorism agents say. It’s also playing into al-Qaida’s hands.

Focusing on the religious behavior of American citizens instead of proven indicators of criminal activity like stockpiling guns or using shady financing makes it more likely that the FBI will miss the real warning signs of terrorism. And depicting Islam as inseparable from political violence is exactly the narrative al-Qaida spins — as is the related idea that America and Islam are necessarily in conflict. That’s why FBI whistleblowers provided Danger Room with these materials.

(Thanks, M!)

CFP: Intersectionality, work and organisations

Stream Convenors
Carlos Gomez, University of Santiago de Chile, CHILE
Natalia Rocha-Lawton, University of Hertfordshire, ENGLAND
Jenny Rodriguez, Newcastle University, ENGLAND

The stream seeks to showcase conceptual, theoretical and theoretically informed empirical discussion about intersectionality, work and organisation. The stream has a twofold aim. Firstly, to advance discussions on epistemic critiques and their implications for the way intersectionality is used as an analytical and interpretive framework to explore dynamics of power at work and organisations. Secondly, at a more practical level, the panel seeks to contribute to the understanding of how intersectionality is/could be used when researching work and organisations.

Intersectionality continues to be at the centre of debates looking at power dynamics from the perspective that argues interdependence between intersecting inequalities of gender, race, sexuality, age, disability, social class, religion, and nationality, among others, in relation to subject formations, positions and identities. Conceptually, discussions have moved from embracing Crenshaw’s (1991) propositions about the need to challenge and deconstruct single axis notions of identity, to discussing notions of pure and hybrid intersectionalities (Brah & Phoenix, 2004). More recently, the debate has advanced to more divisive thinking where some authors (McCall, 2005) address methodological complexities of intersectionality, whilst others (Ehrenreich, 2002) question the suitability of the use of ‘intersecting categories’ as the best way to approach the discussion and hint to a post-intersectionality agenda that shifts from ‘intersectionality’ to ‘multidimensionality’.

Yet the scope of intersectionality makes it useful for both its theoretical and conceptual functions, as well as its political and agentic functions to highlight and explain the inseparability of categories of difference (individual, institutional, social and cultural) and how these interact with power (McCall, 2005; Yuval-Davis, 2006). The mutually constitutive nature of inequalities and structures of discrimination argued by intersectional theories also provides a useful foundation to understand continuities, shifts and transformations of power in organisations. At the same time intersectionality is a contested framework due to the broadness of intersectional theory and practice, which leads to different, inconsistent, ambiguous, and open-ended approaches (Phoenix and Pattynama, 2006; Davis, 2008). For instance, despite the mainstreaming of intersectionality in policy-making, intersectional looks at work and organisations at an empirical level, in particular lived experiences of ,workers and how intersections affect structures of work and organisational dynamics, remain under-researched. The work of Joan Acker (2000, 2006) on inequality regimes set important arguments to advance the discussion on intersectionality in work organisations and a few others (Staunæs, 2006; Britton & Logan, 2008; Essers & Benschop, 2009; Holvino, 2010; Dahlkild-Öhman& Eriksson, 2011; Healy et al., 2011) have added significant theoretical and empirical insights. Yet the potential of this discussion has not been fully capitalised and it remains at the margins of the meta-narratives of work and organisation. Taylor et al. (2010:2) argue that intersections need to be “empirically substantiated demonstrated and ‘delivered’ [because] the formalistic addition and repetition of ‘intersectionality’ leaves out the intimate interconnections, mutual constitutions and messiness of everyday identifications and lived experiences”. That is an imperative challenge to
advance understanding on the interplay between intersectionality, work and organisations.

More discussion is needed to map the use of intersectionality in the study of work and organisations and expand understanding of how intersecting structures sustain and perpetuate power mechanisms and systems of subordination in work settings. Moreover, these discussions need to span across geographies, temporalities, disciplines and perspectives so that they account not only for complexities in the intersections themselves but also for how these interplay with wider issues associated to contemporary work and organisational dynamics, such as debates on migration, varieties of capitalism, and more generally globalisation.

The stream invites contributions of theoretical, conceptual and empirical works that focus on intersectional analyses of workers, work and/or organisations. Papers are invited on (but not limited to) the following themes:
• Limitations, exclusions and possibilities of intersectional analysis of workers, work and organisations.
• How intersectionality is used to shape research agendas about work and organisation.
• Use of multiple oppression theories to explore experiences of workers.
• Distinctiveness of intersectional approaches to research work and organisations.
• Methodological challenges of intersectional approaches to research in organisations.
• Normative assumptions challenged by the intersectional approaches used to research work and organisations.
• Selection and levels of different categories used in intersectional approaches to research work and organisations.
• Challenges of institutionalisation of intersectionality for research in work and organisations.
• Presuppositions and implications of intersectional approaches to research in work and organisations.

Abstracts of approximately 500 words (ONE page, Word document NOT PDF, single spaced, excluding references, no header, footers or track changes) are invited by 1st October 2011 with decisions on acceptance to be made by stream leaders within one month. All abstracts will be peer reviewed. New and young scholars with ‘work in progress’ papers are welcomed. In the case of co-authored papers, ONE person should be identified as the corresponding author. Note that due to restrictions of space, multiple submissions by the same author will not be timetabled. In the first instance, abstracts should be emailed to jenny.rodriguez AT
Abstracts should include FULL contact details, including your name, institutional affiliation, mailing address, and e-mail address. State the title of the stream to which you are submitting your abstract

No, this isn’t really the way to include transgender people

Australian passports will now have three gender options – male, female and indeterminate – under new guidelines to remove discrimination against transgender people, the government said Thursday.

Transgender people and those of ambiguous sex will now be able to list their gender on passports with an ‘X’ if their choice is supported by a doctor’s statement.

Previously, gender was a choice of only male or female, and people were not allowed to change their gender on their passport without having had a sex-change operation.

The way to include transgender people is to let them tick ‘male’ or ‘female’ even if they haven’t had surgery. It *is* good to have a third option, it really is: some people reject both male and female. But this shouldn’t be touted as including transgender people.

(Thanks, S!)

UPDATE: Looks like it was the reporting that was the problem. Blue Monarch writes: “HuffPo’s got some serious bad reporting going on there, jender. The new guidelines allow for all gender and sex diverse people to get passports issued in their preferred gender.
Here’s a relevant quote from the press release by the Office of the Minister for Foreign Affairs:
“Sex and gender diverse people now have the option of presenting a statement from a medical practitioner supporting their preferred gender.”

Binary trans* people get to have their gender marker, so rejoice! Those of us in the Australian IGSD communities are certainly quite chuffed!”