REARRANGED: An Opera Singer's Facial Cancer and Life Transposed - Book Review

REARRANGED: An Opera Singer's Facial Cancer and Life Transposed

Author: Kathleen Watt
Genre: Non Fiction - Memoir
Publisher: Heliotrope Books LLC
Date Published: October 1, 2023
ISBN-10: 195647434X
ISBN-13: 978-1956474343

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Book Review of :  REARRANGED: An Opera Singer's Facial Cancer and Life Transposed


Kathleen Watt had realized her ambition of singing as a chorister in the Metropolitan Opera Company when she met a seemingly terrible tragedy. Her intriguing memoir, Rearranged, An Opera Singer’s Facial Cancer and Life Transposed, documents her discovery and courageous fight with osteogenic sarcoma, an aggressive bone cancer in the facial sinus , surrounding bone, and tissue. Her career goal of being an opera singer is now replaced with thoughts of mortality, surgeries, and disfigurement.

Kathleen’s story is prefaced by Cori Ellison, who introduces Kathleen and her heroic fight to exorcize the cancer. The introduction, medical diagrams, and Kathleen’s last professional headshot photograph capture the reader’s heart. Kathleen’s determination to “be myself’ was not to take the cancer too seriously. Her upbeat attitude is evident in her writing style. Although her numerous cancer surgeries and often failed reconstruction surgeries could have left her despondent and depressed, she is able to relate the back stories and side stories of her family and friends with compelling intellect and humor.

The author includes medical jargon, factual and medically accurate diagnoses, and treatment plans. Her harrowing and dramatic hospitalizations and setbacks are told intellectually with dramatic suspense and gut-wrenching detail. The reader gains an intimate glimpse of her courageous and resilient nature through her writing. The courage of human nature is glimpsed as Kathleen accepts her “pirate’s patch” in public. Her medical treatments are not for the squeamish reader. Post-surgery, she is in a coma, is intubated, unable to eat or speak, and one eye is compromised. The reader will feel her pain as she wonders about her appearance and her ability to function. She is also concerned about her caregiver, and her family and friends’ reactions to her medical and emotional needs. Through all the serious setbacks, Kathleen recalls humorous incidents.

Not only was Kathleen’s facial structure rearranged, but her whole life was restructured during the times of surgery for cancer and reconstruction, emergencies, and delays. Her future was restructured as well.

The reader experiencing cancer treatments will find that Kathleen’s story is an encouragement with its heartbreaking but uplifting message, humor, raw courage, and hope. It’s as if the reader were along for her incredible journey. The position of caregiver is lovingly acknowledged. This book is a must-read for caregivers of cancer patients and others with serious illnesses. It will touch the hearts of everyone dealing with a life-altering illness.

Kathleen Watt’s storytelling navigates the debilitating impact of cancer on her well-being, connections, and aspirations. With her captivating narrative style, Watt tells her harrowing account of the profound impact cancer can have on every aspect of life—from well-being to personal relationships and aspirations.

Through her compelling narrative, you will learn of the heart-wrenching choices she was forced to make and the realities of hospital rooms and medical procedures. This extraordinary story is a testament to the power of resilience, strength, and courage in the face of unimaginable challenges. It serves as a beacon of understanding and empathy for all who have encountered the unthinkable.

Citations and an extensive list of Resources are a bonus to this exceptional book.

Reviewed by: Carole W

About Kathleen Watt

Kathleen Watt performed principal roles with the Boston Lyric Opera, Sarasota Opera Theater, Des Moines Metro Opera, Opera Works NY, Springfield Regional Opera, and Utah Opera. She sang with New York's Metropolitan Opera Extra Chorus until her career was derailed in 1997 by osteogenic sarcoma (bone cancer) in her face. Kathleen has published performing arts features and essays for New York Newsday, Deutsche Gramophone (liner notes), NYCO Season Journal, Playbill Magazine, Stagebill, The Arts Council, and on LGBTQ life for Echelon Magazine. Writing as a cancer survivor, Kathleen was an editorial contributor to the London-based Saving Faces charity, and has collaborated with doctors and artists on a range of projects, including an on-camera segment for a BBC special about facial disfigurement. Formerly a graphic designer and illustrator for major publications, her rich, varied experience also includes a teaching stint in the Navajo Nation. Kathleen has a BFA from Brigham Young University, and a professional certificate in vocal arts from Boston University, with additional studies at Rhode Island School of Design and Brown University. Kathleen now resides on a windswept hay farm in the Catskills of upstate New York, where she writes and lives with her partner, seven chickens, three dogs, and occasionally two grown children.

Visit for more information on Kathleen Watt


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