Social Encore: ‘RAGE4JAMIL’ in Chinatown
BY JERMEL-LYNN QUILLOPO / Special to the Star-Advertiser
When I go out with a bunch of my friends, we never stay in one place. We are always stopping for drinks at several different places before finally deciding on the last place to simmer the wildness down.
If you like bar-hopping, you will be in luck this weekend. On Friday, Sept. 28 in Chinatown, you’ll be able pay one cover charge that will get you into three different venues — and it is all for a good cause. “RAGE4JAMIL” is a fundraiser for local boy Jamil Newirth, who was diagnosed last June with stage four Glioblastoma Multiforme, a malignant type of brain cancer.
Newirth grew up on Maui’s North Shore with his mother and younger sister Naomi, who said growing up with an older brother made her always feel protected but challenged at the same time.
“He was a very protective big brother when I was in my teens and of course being my big brother he picked on me a bit,” she said, smiling.
However, Naomi said what she loves about her brother the most is his ability to relate to people while being very conciseness about the world around him.
“He is social but always studious. He was the captain of his basketball team and grew up surfing … always working hard,” she said.
The 32-year old avid waterman graduated from Pepperdine University in 2002 and worked in the California advertising industry for companies like Mercedes-Benz while keeping the thought of law school on the back burner. Newirth decided it was time to hit the books and returned home, where he enrolled at the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s William S. Richardson School of Law.
“I was mostly drawn to law because I believed it would continuously be a challenging, learning experience … keeping me engaged throughout my career,” he said.
Wanting to use his law degree to help Hawaii, Newirth concentrated on environmental law and graduated in May 2012.
“I think everyone goes to law school with good intentions, whether it is saving the planet, helping those discriminated against or numerous other causes,” he said.
Around mid-June, Jamil started to experience severe headaches and went to an emergency room to get checked out, where was told that studying for the bar exam may be the cause. When he started vomiting and started to feel a tingly sensation along with his headaches over a period of two weeks, he knew something was terribly wrong.
Newirth returned to the emergency room, where doctors explained his MRI scan revealed a large tumor in his brain.
“When the oncologist walked in and said it was stage four and I had 17 months to live, I was definitely shocked,” he said. “I remember thinking it was crazy and that I would give anything to have my health.”
Naomi said their family was devastated about the news and couldn’t believe someone so young and healthy could be diagnosed with his type of cancer. She added that it was hard to grasp since her family has been shielded from cancer.
“This type of horrible illness, yet alone (happening to) my big brother, and after working so hard and graduating from law school,” she said. “He had just secured a job back home on Maui and was in the midst of studying for the bar.”
Wanting to know more about Jamil’s cancer, the Newirth family educated themselves in order to help the entire family pull through. Stage four of Glioblastoma Multiforme is the final stage. At this stage, the cancer grows at an accelerated rate and starts to spread beyond the tumor and into nearby brain tissue. This type of cancer has a 100% reoccurrence rate and future surgeries and treatments are highly likely.
Jamil recently went under resection surgery, and his doctor believes they were able to remove most of the tumor. The hope was to remove the tumor in order to provide space within the brain to help relieve symptoms and to increase the effectiveness of follow up treatments. Since his surgery, Newirth has been going to chemotherapy and radiation sessions.
“I take a plethora of pills including Chemotherapy, I eat extremely healthy (no sugar or grains), and I try to exercise as much as possible,” he said.
Newirth said that to make his radiation treatments comfortable, he listens to Hawaiian music while in the radiation machine and imagines he is drinking a Mai Tai on a beach in Hawaii.
Naomi’s friend, Raha Hashemi, wanted to help the family, so she collaborated with three of Chinatown’s hottest bars in hopes to help pay off Newirth’s mounting medical bills. One $10 cover will allow people to roam inside Soho, Nextdoor and Manifest, where there will be silent auctions, live music performances and fashion shows. The Newirth family said they are very grateful and hope everyone comes out to have a good time and to celebrate life.
“My family and I want to thank everybody for all the time and energy it takes to put on an event like this,” Naomi said. “We feel the support and love.”
Newirth said it hasn’t been easy and this experience has made him reflect about his life.
“Before deciding to have the surgery to remove the tumor, thoughts of death drifted through my mind,” he said. “They weren’t sad thoughts because I felt I had lived a great life and experienced enough to go comfortably and without regrets.
“At the same time, it was these same thoughts that pushed me towards having the surgery as a first step towards defeating this disease.”
Since his surgery, the Newirth family said that their bond has become stronger than ever.
“We are all strong and we are fighters! Jamil is a fighter and we know he is going to pull through. It’s the only option,” said Naomi.
Newirth said the most difficult thing is giving up the life that he loves so much with people that have helped him become the man that he is today.
“I have realized that I have the greatest friends and family one could ask for,” he said. “It would be impossible to repay all of them for all they have done so I am hoping to pay it forward, as they say, or have a positive impact on others suffering from this disease.”
With a positive outlook on the long road to recovery, Newirth is in high spirits and is determined to win his battle with cancer.
“I’ll go back and see that oncologist after 17 years and remind him of that diagnosis,” he said. “One thing I know I have going for me is that I am young and in my view healthy, so I plan to do whatever it takes.”
In Arabic, Jamil means “beautiful,” and even though Newirth has been dealt a hard hand, he sees his life as nothing less than beautiful.
To find out what is happening at each venue, visit the Facebook event page. To learn more about Newirth and his fight, visit this website. Also join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram with #RAGE4JAMIL or #R4J.
Jermel-Lynn Quillopo is a multi-faceted, energetic individual with experience in both print and broadcast journalism. “Social Encore” aims to tell diverse stories about Hawaii’s food, events and people; share your tips with Jermel via email or follow her on Twitter.