Jake Bailey, the Christchurch teenager whose inspirational speech to his school after he was diagnosed with cancer touched the world, says he is feeling fantastic.

In his first public interview, Jake told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking about the inspirational words that won him the quote of the year title, and how he beat his cancer.

"It's difficult to pinpoint it exactly and it's a slow journey to recovery. I'm taking it one day at a time."

The next six months would be about getting back to where he was before he was told he had Burkitt non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.


Jake said he was looking to the future "cautiously", with weekly blood tests and ongoing monitoring for decades to come. "But for now I'm out of the woods."

Jake told Hosking that he first noticed something was wrong when he started getting pains in his jaw. He was soon diagnosed with cancer and in November, he was told he might not live to see senior prizegiving at Christchurch Boys' High School, which was a week away.

But Jake, who was head boy at the school, was able to leave his hospital bed to deliver his address from a wheelchair. "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 18-year-old said.

The speech was written before his diagnosis, but his health made it more poignant, he said. "You've got to wonder if it was almost meant to be."

He didn't expect the speech to go around the world, and was grateful he managed to get through it despite his illness.

"I'm just grateful the headline wasn't inspirational head boy vomits down his front while the speech is delivered. It could have easily gone like that. It was just something I felt I had to do and I was grateful I managed to get through it."

He planned to take it easy this year, and focus on his health. That included possibly moving to the Gold Coast for part of the year.

Jake planned to study commerce and law at university in Auckland before his diagnosis, and was still keen to do that at some stage, but other opportunities had also come from his inspirational speech in November.


Jake's speech prompted people to write to him from all over the world, and the Prime Minister John Key wore a wristband carrying Jake's quote.

When announcing his remission news, Jake said: "There will be a lot of follow-up care over the coming years and cancer makes no guarantees, but for now I can get on with my life."

He thanked his family and friends for their support and said the medical team at Christchurch Hospital's bone marrow transplant unit saved his life.

Christchurch Boys' High and its students also got a special mention, for their "amazing support".

"The benefit of such a tight-knit brotherhood has been so evident," he said.

Jake also thanked the public for the many heartfelt messages he had received, "which have been exceptionally uplifting".

"I was blown away by what an impact my words had on strangers, but then I was blown away by what impact strangers' words had on me," he said.

"The chemotherapy has taken a huge toll on my body. It has left me with ongoing issues and it will take me time to get back to where I was previously. Sometimes I feel more like I'm 81 than 18. But I'm just grateful to be alive."