Cancer survivor speaks

At Iona College (from left) are Georgia Mischefski-Gray (Woodford House), Kedra Macpherson (Iona College), Jake Bailey and Hamish Woods (Lindisfarne) .
At Iona College (from left) are Georgia Mischefski-Gray (Woodford House), Kedra Macpherson (Iona College), Jake Bailey and Hamish Woods (Lindisfarne) .

Inspirational speaker Jake Bailey - who set the world alight with a rousing speech about his brush with cancer - has made a flying visit to inspire the youth of Hawke's Bay.

Twelve months ago, Jake was an 18-year-old schoolboy who had no idea of the enormous challenges that lay ahead.

In November 2015, a week before he was due to deliver his prize-giving speech, Jake was diagnosed with Burkitt's non-Hodgkinson lymphoma, the fastest growing cancer known and given three weeks to live if left untreated.

Despite being terribly ill, Jake showed extraordinary courage to deliver his speech. A video of it went viral and made headlines worldwide.

A line from this now famous speech - "none of us get out of life alive, so be gallant, be great, be gracious, be grateful for the opportunities you have" - was voted Massey University's 2015 New Zealand Quote of the Year.

Jake's story is one of courage, resilience and perseverance. He has been in remission since January and now lives on the Gold Coast.

His visit to Hawke's Bay was organised by Murray Barker, Napier Boys' High School Head of Boarding, who worked with other boarding schools to bring Jake here.

"I thought it would be good for the students to listen to a young man who has shown a lot of perseverance through very dark times and acknowledge that everybody goes through tough times at some stage," said Murray, who had heard Jake speak.

"If they can draw from Jake's experiences for inspiration, that just may be key to helping them get through."

Boarding students from Iona College, Lindisfarne, Napier Boys' High School, Napier Girls' High School and Woodford House attended two presentations, hosted by Napier Boys' High School and Iona College.

The presentations were a great opportunity for the students to hear from someone their age who has had to find ways of managing life in the face of imminent death.

"Jake gave a frank and at times shocking account of what he has had to face, and how he is learning to work through it all," Iona College Director of Boarding Marianne McKnight said.

"He said he hasn't found any real answers to the big questions but knows that he has to lead himself through these times, that we all have leadership qualities, but perhaps leading yourself is the greatest challenge."

"Our students were 100 per cent engaged," Woodford House Head of Boarding, Ange Rathbone said. "Jake is a gifted presenter and as an 18 year old, he connected with the audience as he openly shared his cancer journey and experiences. His advice was relevant, honest, wise and motivating."

For the students, it was the authenticity of Jake's message which stood out. His advice about making the most of every day and seizing the moment struck a chord.

"I am pleased I went," one Lindisfarne student said. "He spoke well, and we can all take something from his speech on living in the moment - plan for the future but always live in the present too."

As Jake talked about his vision to help other young people who experience tough times, he reminded them to be grateful for opportunities. For aspiring future leaders, Jake says "the best will be those who can adapt, be flexible and make tough decisions through times of adversity."

- Hastings Leader

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