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Watch a High School Student Give a Moving Speech After Being Diagnosed with Cancer

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After Jake Bailey was diagnosed with cancer a week before his high school’s graduation, no one expected him to be able to speak at the ceremony. However, the senior monitor defied the odds, and showed up to deliver a heartbreaking speech to his Christchurch Boy’s High School peers.

Bailey was diagnosed with Burkitts non-Hodgkin lymphoma​ and doctors told him the disease could claim his life at any moment, according to Stuff.co.nz.

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

But the 18-year-old surprised everyone by appearing at the assembly. Fighting back tears, he imparted an emotional message to his audience.

“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.”

Quoting Jim Rohn, an American author and motivational speaker, he said: “Let others lead small lives, but not you. Let others cry over small hurts, but not you. Let others leave their future in someone else’s hands, but not you.”

He also spoke about embracing the present. “The future is truly in our hands. Forget about having long-term dreams. Let’s be passionately dedicated to the pursuit of short-term goals,” he said.

Bailey finished with the school’s motto, “Altiora Peto,” which means I seek higher things.”

He received a resounding standing ovation, spontaneous haka — an ancient Māori war dance traditionally used as a display of a tribe’s pride, strength and unity — and singing of the school song.

See the full speech above.

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Write to Megan McCluskey at megan.mccluskey@time.com