A Maui lawyer with brain cancer was given 17 months to live. That was 5 years ago

Updated: May. 31, 2017 at 10:03 PM HST
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MAKAWAO, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Maui lawyer is using his personal cancer battle to give others hope -- and he's picking up some celebrity supporters.

In the five years since Jamil Newirth has been diagnosed with brain cancer, he passed the bar exam, ran a marathon, and ended up on a jumbotron.

Newirth said he was 32 years old and just graduated from the University of Hawaii School of Law when he started having severe headaches.

Doctors told him it was stress from studying for the bar exam. But Newirth said symptoms turned into vomiting and loss of feeling on the left side of body.

An MRI revealed a large tumor in his brain and doctors diagnosed him stage four glioblastoma, a rare and aggressive form of brain cancer. Newirth said they gave him 17 months to live.

He said doctors told him he had between a five to 10 percent chance to survive to five years and the cancer is almost always fatal.

The now 37-year-old has beaten those odds.

"After being diagnosed and going through all the emotions that come along with it, finally it meant to me that it was obviously a challenge, a very big challenge," he said. "And I think I'm the type of person that I like challenges. It was a statistic that I wasn't willing to accept."

Newirth began a clinical trial at the University of California Los Angeles where he met Dr. Linda Liau, a professor of neurosurgery and director of the UCLA Brain Tumor Program.

"His story was just so compelling that I felt that we should do what we can to get him on the trial," said Liau, in a video provided by Newirth.

The experimental treatment included surgery, radiation, and a year of chemotherapy.

Newirth said he still has a remaining tumor but shows no signs of regrowth that is closely monitored at UCLA.

He passed the bar exam while undergoing treatments, completed his first marathon in December and plans to keep living his life to the fullest.

In March, Newirth was invited to be a "Laker for a Day." He got to be on the court during half time and was even featured on the jumbotron.

But Newirth said his greatest blessing is the support of friends and family who continue to help him overcome cancer's death sentence. He hopes his new non-profit, "UVSC" (you versus cancer), can do the same for others.

"Probably the most helpful thing to anybody diagnosed is staying positive and having that support around them is crucial," he said. "So hopefully UVSC can help provide that support and keep people engaged positively fighting against cancer."

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