"Be gallant, be great, be gracious, and be grateful for the opportunities you have," Jake Bailey said in his speech

By Caitlin Keating
Updated November 09, 2015 03:30 PM

One week before 18-year-old Jake Bailey was supposed to give a speech at his high school’s end-of-year ceremony, he received devastating news.

After several weeks of not feeling well, tests revealed that Bailey had Burkitt’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a fast-growing form of cancer. He was given just weeks to live, according to Stuff.co.nz.

But despite his grim prognosis, Bailey, who is senior monitor (similar to class president) put on his school uniform along with a brave face and shocked his classmates when he left his hospital bed for a surprise appearance at the Christchurch Boy’s High School assembly in New Zealand.

“I wrote a speech, and a week before I was due to deliver this speech tonight they said, ‘You’ve got cancer,’ ” he said from his wheelchair.

“They said, ‘If you don’t get any treatment within the next three weeks, you’re going to die.’ Then they told me I wouldn’t be here tonight to deliver this speech,” he continued.

Principal Nic Hill, who was prepared to read Bailey’s speech on his behalf, told the news outlet that their entire community has been impacted by his diagnosis.

“It’s been pretty emotionally raw at school because it has been really quick,” he said. “It was great that Jake was reading it instead of me. I know how sick he is and I was amazed at how strongly he spoke.”

Hill added: “He is strong and there is just a spark about him. He is just rock solid, with x-factor.”

Throughout the inspiring speech, Bailey fought back tears.

“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 you have,” he said. “We don’t know where we might end up, or when we might end up.”

He continued: “The future is truly in our hands. Forget about long term dreams, lets be passionately dedicated to the pursuit of short term goals.”

The senior finished his speech with the school’s motto, “Altiora Peto,” which means “I seek higher things.”

Bailey’s message was heard loud and clear. The entire room erupted into applause at the end of his speech, with his peers giving him a standing ovation and performing a haka, a traditional ancestral dance.

Bailey then closed his eyes and mouthed the words “thank you.”