“A week before I was due to deliver (this) speech tonight, they said, you’ve got cancer. They said, if you don’t get any treatment in the next three weeks, you’re going to die.”
An emotional valedictory address by a New Zealand high school senior has gone viral online, attracting more than 900,000 views since it was posted to YouTube on Wednesday.
Jake Bailey is a senior monitor (similar to a student body president) at Christchurch Boys’ High School. He was diagnosed with one of the world’s fastest growing tumors — Burkitt Lymphoma — just a week before he was due to give the end of year speech.
“They told me I wouldn’t be here tonight to deliver that speech but luckily that speech isn’t about what’s going to come but what about an amazing year it’s been. And you didn’t expect me to write another speech from my hospital bed, did you?”
Choking back tears at times, he said: “Forget about having long-term dreams. Let’s be passionately dedicated to the pursuit of short-term goals. Micro-ambitious. Work with pride on what is in front of us. We don’t know where we might end up. Or when it might end up.”
“Here’s the thing: None of us get out of life alive so be gallant, be great, be gracious, be grateful for the opportunities you have.”
Fellow students responded with a long, loud round of applause and a group of students even surprised Jake with a haka — a traditional Maori dance.
‘A good prognosis’
Bailey, who is currently undergoing chemotherapy, spoke on stage from a wheelchair.
“The treatment is very tough on him but he is in a remarkably good frame of mind,” Christchurch Boys’ School headmaster Nic Hill said.
Hill, who has met with Bailey on a weekly basis, described him as a student who is wise beyond his years. “He’s well-loved and admired by the boys and the staff of the school, particularly the old boys of the school have thought highly of him.”
“Because especially it was so sudden, they were definitely shocked and upset. It did knock some boys around,” he added.
The community have rallied around the teenager, offering to cook meals and do other favors for his family.
Bailey, who is not well enough to speak to the media, has been shocked by the global attention, Hill said.
“(It’s) definitely unexpected. He has been concerned some of the media portrayed his cancer as terminal. There is a good prognosis.”
Although university plans are on hold for now, Bailey is planning to study commerce and law, probably at Canterbury University, Hill said.
“I don’t know where it goes from here for any of us — for you, for anyone, and as sure as hell not for me,” Bailey said in closing his speech.
“But I wish you the very best in your journey, and thank you for all being part of mine.”