The teenager was diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma - a fast-growing cancer which is fatal if left untreated - in late October. Photo / YouTube
The teenager was diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma - a fast-growing cancer which is fatal if left untreated - in late October. Photo / YouTube

Teen told he may not live to graduate gives this speech

A HEART-wrenching speech by 18-year-old Jake Bailey after he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer has now gone global.

Nic Hill, the headmaster of Christchurch Boys' High School said the speech had inspired people around the world.

One week before senior prizegiving, School senior monitor, or head boy, Jake Bailey was told he might not live to see the day.

But, as the Herald reported last week, he was able to leave his hospital bed to deliver his speech from a wheelchair on Wednesday night.

It has since been watched more than 73,000 times on YouTube.

"I think we're all just a bit humbled actually. It shows how great Jake's speech was and how courageous he actually was," Mr Hill said.

"I didn't know at the time he was actually vomiting before he went onstage, and then again afterwards until about midnight. So it certainly was amazing."

And the story has now gone global, with the Daily Mail and reporting on Jake's speech yesterday.

"I wrote this before I knew I had cancer and now I have a whole new spin on it," Jake said in his speech.

"Here's the thing, none of us get out of life alive. So be gallant, be great, be gracious and be grateful for the opportunities that you have."

The teenager was diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma - a fast-growing cancer which is fatal if left untreated - in late October.

Jake underwent about a week of intensive chemotherapy before delivering the speech.

"I wrote a speech. And then, a week before I was due to deliver that speech tonight, they said 'You've got cancer'," Jake said in the speech.

"They said 'If you don't get any treatment within the next three weeks you're going to die'. And then they told me I wouldn't be here tonight to deliver that speech."

Mr Hill it was only by chance the speech was filmed - Jake had asked to see prizegiving if he couldn't make it out of hospital so students filmed a live-stream, Mr Hill said.

Mr Hill said Jake had appreciated the support but wanted to make it clear he was doing OK.

He had received a number of messages from people in New Zealand who had battled the same type of cancer in the past, as well as former Christchurch Boys' students and others in the community.

It was now time for Jake to look after himself, Mr Hill said.

"Some of the stories have painted a more negative light on his prognosis than his reality. Jake is alive and it's going to be very tough, incredibly tough, it will be very intensive treatment. However, the prognosis is good," Mr Hill said.

"Jake needs to now look after himself. It's this thing where he's facing this amazing challenge, he's inspiring others, but he really needs to be looking after himself.

"That was the thing about prizegiving as well. He didn't want to let us down."

Mr Hill said there was strong school support networks for Jake's classmates and teachers affected by his battle.

In Jake's speech, he went on to thank everyone who had helped him throughout the year and urged his fellow students to strive for success.

At the end of the speech, which was met with a rousing haka and emotional rendition of the school song, Jake struggled to hold back tears alongside a large number of the listeners.

"I don't know where it goes from here for any of us. For me, for you.

"Wherever we go and whatever we do, may we always be friends when we meet again," he said.

A number of people have left messages of support below the YouTube video, stating Jake was an inspiration and thanking Christchurch Boys' High School for uploading the footage.

"What an awesome young man you are Jake. That speech was incredible and inspiring.

What a beautiful soul you are, it shines from within you. Kia Kaha," Liane Doyle wrote.

YouTube user Chloe H agreed: "As Charles Bukowski once said: "What matters most is how well you walk through the fire". Keep on walking Jake, and let your moral strength drive you forward and through this."

What is Burkitt lymphoma?
•Burkitt lymphoma is a form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, where cancer starts in the immune cells.
•It is recognised as the fastest growing human tumour.
•The cancer is related to impaired immunity and fatal if untreated.
•It was named after British surgeon Denis Burkitt, who first identified the disease among children in Africa in the 1950s. The cancer is rare outside of Africa.
•Intensive chemotherapy is the preferred treatment.