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About the Book

Read an EXCERPT:

Chapter 11

Dancing Day

WHEN MY FATHER PASSED AWAY the previous year, he left each of five children a modest inheritance, wholly unexpected, and “modest” only when divided by five. With some of my share, I was determined to throw a first-class party, a broad celebration of the life our parents had lived, to outshine the memory . . . 

Join us for an EVENT: 
February - November 2024

Author conversations, signings, presentations and more!  If you would like to adopt REARRANGED for your book club, or as a resource for your course in narrative medicine, health humanities, or medical/dental curriculum, please Contact Us. 




A gripping portrayal, both heart-breaking and uplifting

In this heart-wrenching debut, [former] New York opera singer Kathleen Watt regales readers with her inspirational story of surviving facial bone cancer. Watt recounts the terrifying procedures that accompanied the removal of a “golf ball-sized” tumor, as well as the extensive facial reconstruction she [endured], with wit and stunning prose, detailing the devastating—and inspiring—ways her life, and face, were “rearranged.” Watt’s sweeping storytelling…ultimately gifts readers with front row seats to her most triumphant performance to date—surviving cancer, and having the strength and courage to relive the harrowing journey within the pages of this story. The end result is both heart-breaking and uplifting and will touch the heart of any readers affected by a life-altering illness.


A heartrending journey recalled with lucidity and poise

Author Kathleen Watt is “... a sharply descriptive writer... unafraid...

unapologetically frank... [with] a wry, sometimes self-effacing sense of humor

that brings levity to a distressing subject...

The result is a finely textured and courageous literary memoir that is inspirational,

and at times, darkly amusing.”


This narrative is beautifully rendered and illuminates the profound uncertainties a cancer diagnosis engenders. The relationships Kathleen describes are each, in their own way, creative endeavors. REARRANGED honors the fragility, vulnerability and strength of the relationships that nourished her; with loved ones, with her professional caregivers, and to herself and fellow inhabitants in the kingdom of the sick. The memoir is funny, profoundly moving and leaves the reader gasping at the unflinching description of the treatments and setbacks Kathleen endures. It should be a must-read for anybody interested in the fortitude and generosity of the human spirit and how our identities adapt to illness—and for all doctors and professional caregivers.

Mark Gilbert​, PhD | Studio Art, Medical Humanities; University of Nebraska, Omaha


In REARRANGED: An Opera Singer’s Facial Cancer and Life Transposed, Kathleen Watt perfectly captures the exhilaration and madcap excitement of life backstage at the Metropolitan Opera, where she was a member of the Extra Chorus. Her writing about her singer's life is so vivid and personal that when she discovers an ominous lump on her gum that turns out to be an aggressive facial cancer, it hits the reader hard. I’m bowled over by Watt’s bravery in having lived to tell this harrowing tale, and for sharing it all so candidly.


Amy Burton | Leading lyric soprano, New York City Opera, The Metropolitan Opera, Major opera companies in Europe, the UK, Japan, and Israel; Recital and Cabaret; Faculty, The Juilliard School, Mannes College of Music


For soprano Kathleen Watt, what began as a trip to her dentist morphed into a decade-long medical journey in the battle against maxillary osteogenic sarcoma. However, Watt’s grit and good humor prevent this book from becoming a saga of sickness. Instead, it is a story of survival. The author’s optimism shimmers... In REARRANGED, Watt shares her singular battle with a foe that altered both her physical form and her life. Her story of transposition is a source of inspiration and encouragement for anyone who must face the battle of a lifetime, whatever form it may take.


[Excerpted from NATS Journal of Singing, January/February 2024]


Debra Greschner, MM, B.Ed. | Associate Editor, Journal of Singing; National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS); Pan-American Vocology Association (PAVA); Voice faculty, Lamar University


Kathleen Watt has turned her harrowing experience as an opera singer diagnosed with facial bone cancer into a story that is fresh, gripping, and also remarkably entertaining. Her voice—smart, funny, and disarmingly forthright—makes this book shine. I find myself in awe of her sheer bravado and resilience in overcoming all odds to share her story and hard-won wisdom with all of us.​


Helen Fremont | Award-winning author of national bestsellers The Escape Artist, (Gallery Books, 2020), and After Long Silence, (Delta, 1999)


As an ICU nurse who only gets to meet and care for my patients in a very particular window of their medical journey, I found Kathleen Watt’s book, REARRANGED, to be the story that every healthcare provider needs to read. Watt’s ability to articulate her struggles, desires, frustrations, comforts, griefs and victories from pre-diagnosis to recovery helps us all better understand the tumultuous human journey with an aggressive cancer. I see my patients on a more human level, and I view my role in their care with much more humility after reading Watt’s book. This page-turner is incredibly engaging, a generous gift to all of us who desire to do better in healthcare.


Hui-wen Sato, MSN, MPH, RN, CCRN | Pediatric ICU nurse; TEDTalk Speaker, Writer, Blogger


Logo "H" for Helioptrope Books


An Opera Singer's Facial Cancer

And Life Transposed

A Memoir
By Kathleen Watt

REARRANGED tells of leaving the operatic stage for a starring role opposite the Big C. Bone cancer in my cheek ended my career as an opera singer and brought me face to face with mortality, disfigurement, the meaning and uses of beauty—and a lot of left over pieces.


A small corps of medical elites convened to excoriate my diseased bones with surgical wizardry and lethal toxins, and stayed on to restore me to myself through a brutal alchemy of kindness and titanium screws.

REARRANGED is a story about letting go to hold on, of putting old pieces to new uses—and of the unlikely arrangements that make it all work out.

Purchase at, Barnes &  Or, order at your local bookstore! 

And add REARRANGED to your Goodreads Book Shelf!

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