The annual Daffodil Day assembly at Dannevirke's Totara College last Friday took on a special meaning as Year 9 student Jacob Coker shared his cancer journey with students and staff.

"Jacob is an inspiration to us all," Totara College administrator Cath Cameron said.

Principal Debbie Max told the students cancer could be a "scary word".

"I knew Jacob when he was in a wheelchair, unable to walk and he is amazing," she said.


Jacob's story was an emotional connection between Daffodil Day activities at the school and how the funds raised had helped during his battle with synovial sarcoma, a cancer so rare that only one in three million people develop it.

When Jacob was diagnosed on September, 22, 2016, he and his family were left reeling. He said life was never the same after that.

"We cried and cried," his parents, Amanda and Greg, told the students.

"This was something which happened to other people and you never expect it to happen to you," Amanda said.

Jacob Coker in November 2016, shortly after his diagnosis. Photo / Christine McKay
Jacob Coker in November 2016, shortly after his diagnosis. Photo / Christine McKay

Jacob has been in remission for a year, but says his hundreds of beads of courage are his life-story.

Each bead represents different surgeries, blood tests, rounds of chemotherapy and 25 days of radiation.

Jacob's radiation had to be stopped because he suffered radiation colitis, an inflammation of the colon that occurs as a side effect of cancer radiation therapy to the abdomen or pelvis.

A seven-hour surgery followed to remove a 887g tumour from his abdominal wall.
But despite being in remission, Jacob still has to cope with a lot.


"The mesh in my stomach is ripped and torn and it's annoying," he said.

"It's pretty hard to find comfort sometimes, especially when my friend Jackson passed away this year. Life gives you tough bits, but with God's help you can get through."

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It's not only Jacob who has suffered through his cancer journey, he admits his siblings have too.

"The Child Cancer Foundation help and our family have been on a trip to Queenstown through Make a Wish," he said.

"Canteen help and support me too and along with 26 kids from around the North Island I'm going to Los Angeles with Koro Care. The itinerary is secret, but I'm pretty sure we are going to Disneyland."

Along with family and friends, the Dannevirke community stepped up in a big way to help. Someone paid for their vehicle's Warrant of Fitness, local Forbes Plumbing and building companies converted the family bath to a shower, helped by a $2000 donation from Cancer Support - a reminder of what money donated on Daffodil Day can do for those in the community.

Jacob's Totara College teacher, Jonny Max, reminded students that life was precious.

Jacob agreed.

"Don't take life for granted, enjoy it while you can," he said.