All in My Head by Jessica Morris review – a candid and defiant memoir about cancer

Morris resolves to fight her aggressor in this extraordinary account of her five-year struggle with a terminal brain tumour

“I didn’t choose cancer. Cancer chose me.” None of us know what we will do when we’re given the sentence of our death. For Jessica Morris, the sentence came too early, when she was in her early 50s, strong and vigorous, her three children not yet adults, her future seeming to lie clear and unimpeded in front of her. And it came out of the blue: hiking with friends in the Catskills in upstate New York in 2016, she began to feel strangely breathless and “inexplicably odd… odder still… struggling to call out during a nightmare… Agh…” The violent seizure she then had was her body’s “suicide mission” revealing itself.

Morris, a communications consultant, had glioblastoma, an aggressive brain tumour that is terminal, and whose median survival rate is 14 months; only 5% are alive after five years. The hourglass had been turned and the sands of her life were running out. All in My Head – written in a voice that is loud, defiant and beautiful, and that demands to be heard – is her account of what she did when she was given her sentence. It is a narrative that can only have one end: I picked up the book, whose back-cover photo shows her chemo-bald and vivid, knowing that Morris died last year; the afterword is by her husband, the journalist Ed Pilkington. The Evil Fucker, as she calls her disease, had got her, and her story is over.

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