Nadia Popovici kept moving her eyes from the hockey game to Brian Hamilton’s neck.
Mr. Hamilton, assistant director of equipment for the Vancouver Canucks, had a small mole there. It was about two centimeters tall and irregularly shaped and reddish-brown in color – possible hallmarks of a cancerous mole, signs Ms Popovici had learned to spot while volunteering in hospitals as a nursing assistant.
Maybe he already knew it? But if so, why was the mole still there? She concluded that Mr. Hamilton did not know.
“I have to tell him,” Popovici, 22, told her parents during the NHL game Oct. 23 between the Canucks and the Seattle Kraken at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle.
Ms. Popovici typed a message on her phone and waited for the game to end. After waving several times, she finally caught Mr. Hamilton’s attention and placed her phone against the plexiglass.
“The mole on the back of the neck may be cancerous. Please go see a doctor! the message was read, with the words “mole”, “cancer” and “doctor” colored in bright red.
Mr. Hamilton said he looked at the message, rubbed the back of his neck and continued to walk, thinking, “Well, that’s weird.”
Ms Popovici said she regretted the post and thought to herself at the time: “Maybe it was inappropriate for me to talk about it.”
After the game, Mr. Hamilton returned home and asked his partner if she could spot the mole. She could. He asked the team doctor if this was worrying. It was. Then, after having it removed, he waited for the biopsy results to see if the ventilator sitting behind the team bench was right.
Indeed, Madame Popovici was right, and she had just saved his life.
“She pulled me out of a slow fire,” Hamilton said at a press conference. news conference on Saturday his voice trembling at times. “And the words that came out of the doctor’s mouth were that if I ignored this for four to five years, I wouldn’t be here.”
Specifically, doctors later told him it was type 2 malignant melanoma, a type of skin cancer that, because it was caught early, could be easily removed and treated.
“With melanoma, like many other cancers, the success of treatment or cure often depends on the stage of the disease – and the sooner you find something, the better,” said Dr Ashwani Rajput, director. from the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center.
Mr. Hamilton recalled the doctor telling him, “I’m going to diagnose you with cancer and I will cure you of cancer on the same phone call.
Once he knew he was okay, Mr. Hamilton asked the Canucks franchise to help him find the woman he described as “a hero.”
Mr. Hamilton wrote a letter which was posted on Saturday to the team’s Twitter account which read, “To this woman I’m trying to find, you’ve changed my life, and now I want to find you to say THANKS SO MUCH!” The problem is, I don’t know who you are or where you come from.
It took less than three hours to locate Ms Popovici, who was sleeping at her home in Tacoma, Wash., That afternoon after working nights as a crisis intervention specialist in a suicide prevention hotline.
She woke up to text messages and missed calls from her mother, Yukyung Nelson. “I think she was just shocked,” Ms. Nelson said.
Ms. Popovici, who had previously scheduled to attend Saturday’s Canucks-Kraken game in Seattle, was invited by both teams to meet with Mr. Hamilton.
He had just finished a press conference on what had happened. Referring to Ms Popovici, he told reporters: “My mother wants her to know that she loves him.”
Later that afternoon, he repeated the message to Ms. Popovici in person.
“It was the sweetest thing when you talked about your mother,” she told him as they met properly for the first time.
“Some people say it won’t even be a drop in the bucket, but trust me, it looks like everything,” she said. “I am really so grateful. “
She watched the game from the same seat where she had spotted the mole. Everything, she thought, had gone well that day: an aspiring medical student was sitting close enough to a team bench where an assistant director of equipment, luckily, was not wearing a jacket. large enough to cover the cancerous mole on her neck.
“This whole experience has been so rare,” Ms. Popovici said. “And I’ll just treasure it.”