The Brain Cake

photoWhy on earth would someone with a brain tumour – a tumour that cannot be removed and cannot be cured – make a brain shaped cake to mark the first anniversary of his diagnosis?

It’s a question I’ve been asking myself all afternoon, as my wife and I shaped the sponge and covered it in jam; as we coloured the marzipan pink and shaped it into thin sausages; as we gently stuck the coils of marzipan together; as we created a not strictly anatomically correct, but not unrecognisable cake in the shape of a brain.

Some I’m sure will think it inappropriate, others might even be offended.

But I suspect many more will immediately get what, for me, making my brain cake was all about.

I did it because in December I made an off-the-cuff joke on these pages about making a brain cake to celebrate the anniversary of my diagnosis.

I hope the joke was funny, but it was also sad. It made me feel so melancholy that the only way to counteract it was to promise myself, there and then, that I’d actually go ahead and do it.

I did it because I wanted to celebrate a year since diagnosis. Not to celebrate a year of survival, but to celebrate a year of life.

I did it because I’ve spent another amazing year with my wife and children, enjoying the weather, cycling long miles, going on holidays, seeing great friends, enjoying the sunshine, enjoying my life, despite everything else.

Because I wanted to recognise how wonderful people have been: to say thanks for your messages and gestures, your thoughts and your actions. And making cakes is what people do when they want to say thank you, isn’t it?

I did it because I have a sense of humour.

Because I refuse to conform to what people with cancer are supposed to do. Because I want to do things that people with cancer are not supposed to do.

Because cake is tasty. And marzipan is even tastier.

Because this morning – nine days after having brain surgery – I cycled 50 miles in a group, and in less than three hours. At some times this year, I’ve thought I’d never cycle with others or at speed again.

Because this morning I burned enough calories to eat a huge piece of cake.

Because I’m more than just a bloke with a brain tumour. My diagnosis is only part of my life, it is far from the sum total of it.

Because I wanted to celebrate everyone who has, or has had, a brain tumour; in fact any cancer, whether they are living or have lost their life. I wanted to show solidarity with them, their families, their friends, their supporters.

Because I wanted to recognise and celebrate the work of the charities, the support groups, the nurses, those who clean the floors in the hospital wards, the consultants, the doctors.

I did it because it was fun to do, and in a year that’s had its ups and downs, fun is good for us. Fun is brilliant.

Because I’m in control. Because I get to decide. And I decided to make a brain cake.

Because I’ve tried to learn and understand as much as I can about my condition, and I’ve used the information to take the decisions I feel ready for. I’ve not allowed myself to be pushed where I don’t want to go. That’s hard, and it ought to be celebrated.

Because maybe, just maybe, I won’t be around to make a cake again this time next year.

Because it seemed fitting, straight after having brain surgery, to have a go with the knife myself.

Because I wanted to remind myself, and others, not to take ourselves too seriously: at least some of the time.

Because. Well, just because I needed to.

IMG_0809And I wish I could send each and every reader – and there are around 2,000 of you every month – a piece, to say thanks for reading. Thanks for listening.

For those who don’t live close, next time you’re tucking into a muffin or a sponge, a cup cake or a cherry tart, maybe spare a thought for me and my brain cake. Maybe even send me a picture.

For those who do live close, please come around and get your slice.

Don’t make me and the kids eat the whole thing ourselves.


  1. Very artistic! I have a BT and after a particularly bad seizure my appetite went a bit funny and I really craved Jelly. A friend made me a jelly using a brain shaped mold ( left over from kids party days) It was hilarious. Good for you Gideon – enjoy the cake!

  2. Imagine if someone with a tumour in their bowel had the same idea. 🙂 bit less poetic perhaps.

    Sorry if that is too irreverent, but I hope you enjoy the cake.

  3. What a great idea, to fashion a cake that acknowledges your tumour; and then to gorge on it until nothing remains! If only it were that simple ;-).

    I have an inoperable brain tumour myself, and serendipitously stumbled upon your website recently. Your posts are at once interesting, thought-provoking and poignantly relevant. As you say; you’re more than just a bloke with a brain tumour. I tell myself the same thing.


  4. Love it especially as it looks like sausages and in my eyes that makes it slightly funnier x

  5. Gideon, you don’t know me, although we went to the same college, but I think I started the year you left. Was introduced to your blog by a mutual friend. Just to say thank you, from me, for making me smile with the brain cake. My Mum died of a brain tumour 4 weeks before my daughter, her first grandchild, was born. She is so much more than a person who had a brain tumour, though. And she was rather a big fan of cake. Wishing all the very best for the future.

  6. I just want to apologise. To everyone.

    Not for doing the cake, but for making it look so much like very meaty sausages. Considering we are veggies in our house, this certainly wasn’t the desired outcome.

    It does look more at home in a butcher’s shop, than in anyone’s head, that’s for sure.

    Thank you all for your comments on the cake, on the idea, and on its sausage-like appearance.

    If I’ve put you off cake for life, I apologise. It was actually very tasty, and there was no gristle at all.

  7. Just loved your brain cake Gideon, it’s terrific. I was diagnosed with a bt 5 years ago (surgery/treatment would be too dangerous because of its location) and I celebrate each anniversary of my diagnosis as another year of life.

    I find your blog really inspiring, thank you!

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