Hope for Head and Neck Cancer Patients, Survivors, Caregivers
I want to share with you Kathleen Watt’s just published memoir, REARRANGED: An Opera Singer's Facial Cancer and Life Transposed. I hope this book gives you a sense of hope.
Key themes throughout the narrative include how a patient can and should be included in treatment decisions. And that a harrowing medical journey is not a hiatus from life, but a segment of the path through life itself which, met with creativity, courage and resilience, can result in a fully engaged future of wellness and plenty.
In the twenty-five years since Kathleen Watt’s battle with osteogenic sarcoma (in her jaw), Narrative Medicine has matured to a fully accredited instrument of the physician’s craft, allowing the power and specificity in a patient’s own story to inform and fortify her own treatment. Across the profession, doctors, nurses, practitioners, and caregivers are now implementing narrative best practices and team-based health care. In the spirit of contributing to a crucial knowledge base, Kathleen offers her own narrative in her debut memoir, REARRANGED: An Opera Singer's Facial Cancer and Life Transposed.
In lyrical prose, with musical allusions, clinical references, and a bit of comic relief, Rearranged follows Kathleen Watt's plunge from the operatic stage into the netherworld of hospital life—its indigenous creatures, its peculiar language, its signposts of the mysterious human condition—through the devastation of cancer, and out the other side. Kathleen was a New York opera singer at mid-career, with a steady, lucrative chorus job at the Metropolitan Opera and solo gigs elsewhere, anticipating her best year ever. Instead, a vicious bone cancer blew her plans to smithereens, along with her face. She had to let everything go. Bit by bit, through a brutal alchemy of lethal toxins, titanium screws, and infinite kindness, she discovered new arrangements for old pieces, in a life catastrophically transposed. Not only a heart-wrenching medical odyssey, but an ultimately joyous personal journey of transformation.
*As Kathleen’s partner at that time, I was the primary caregiver during her 10-year medical odyssey. Since we’ve remained good friends, I’m now helping to get the word out about her incredible story of bone cancer and the ten-year battle to reconstruct her face.