22- year-old Nadia Popovici is a big time NHL hockey fan, and season ticket holder, of her hometown Seattle Kraken.
Nadia graduated from the University of Washington in 2019 when she was but 20, and was planning on medical school this fall.
Since then, she has been volunteering at hospitals as a nursing assistant including time in the oncology ward.
On October 23rd, she and her parents found themselves directly behind the bench of the opposing team who was there to play against the Kraken for the first time, the Vancouver Canucks.
47-year-old Brian “Red” Hamilton has been the assistant equipment manager for the Vancouver Canucks since 2002, and is very active during a game, continuously moving from one player to the next.
Nadia tried to focus on the game, but she kept shifting her eyes to Brian.
Specifically, to the back of Brian’s neck.
She was suspicious of an irregularly- shaped mole “about two centimeters and was irregularly shaped and red-brown in color”.
She wanting to warn Brian but didn’t want to freak him out.
She told her parents that “I need to tell him”.
So she, in large font, typed a simple note out on her phone and pressed it against the glass, waving at him and tapping the glass to get his attention.
“The mole on the back of your neck is possibly cancerous. Please go see a doctor!”
The words “mole,” “cancerous,” and “doctor” were in bright red font.
Said Brian, “The note threw me off, so I kind of just shrugged and kept going And so, I felt bad because I felt like I didn’t really give her the time of day.
I honestly didn’t know what to think. It really threw me off and i didn’t take it seriously at first. I thought to myself ‘whoa, that’s really weird’ because i didn’t know that i had a mole on the back of my neck. I didn’t know it existed.”
But the next night after they flew home, and whilst in bed with his wife Jessica, she confirmed the odd shaped mole.
That day, he had the team physician take a look.
He didn’t like the look of it and had it removed.
A biopsy revealed malignant melanoma in situ 2, the early stages.
Because it was spotted and checked early.
The Canucks put out a message on Twitter, trying to find the fan he credits with “saving his life.” Asking other hockey fans to help him connect with “the woman he considers his hero.”
“To this woman I am trying to find, you changed my life, and now I want to find you to say THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH! Problem is, I don’t know who you are or where you are from.
That evening, Oct. 23rd, and the message you showed me on your cell phone will forever be etched into my brain and has made a true life-changing difference for me and my family. Your instincts were right and that mole on the back of my neck was a malignant melanoma and thanks to your persistence and the quick work of our doctors, it is now gone.”
They released this on December 31st.
Nadia’s mom saw and then commented on the Facebook post.
At that time, Nadia was working at a crisis hotline overnight on New Year’s Eve.
“I woke up with my mom’s phone call and she was like, ‘Nadia, you have no idea what’s going on,’”. “She sent me the statement the Canucks put out, and it said they were looking for me. There was a lot of screaming. I couldn’t believe it.
He kind of glanced at my phone and walked away and I thought maybe he’d already seen it. Maybe he’d already gotten it checked out by a doctor, it’s probably fine. Then for this to happen months later, to hear he had possibly five years before showing debilitating symptoms. I mean, that’s, it’s just so incredible that I’ve had the opportunity to reach him at that moment.”
That night at the game, there was an announcement that left Nadia happily shocked.
And then met the man she saved.
The Canucks gave her a $10,000 scholarship to help with medical school, and since, a fan of both the Kraken and of her eagle eyes matched that with another $10,000.
But that’s not what it’s all about.
Said Brian, “I understand I’m a part of the story, but she needs to know she’s the story.
She’s the person that did this. She saved my life. She needs to know her efforts were valid and bang on.”
“You know, I’ve got a wonderful family. I’ve got a wonderful daughter, and I just think, like, she extended my life.
She saved my life.”
As NHL.com has reported, Hamilton was especially shocked that Popovici had managed to even see the mole, since he was wearing a jacket with a radio attached to the back.
But you don’t have to be a future medical student to spot melanoma, which is a serious form of skin cancer.
Experts say you should look for these features: asymmetry, border irregularity, color changes, diameter greater than 1/4 inch and evolving (or ABCDE).
( Last weekend, i checked- in to find two kosmail messages awaiting me.
Both alerting me to this same story and hoping i could do it justice.
Thank you both so much, friends!
It indeed takes a village. )
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.