Hockey fan alerts Canucks employee about cancerous mole on his neck

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SEATTLE (KTVI) — The Vancouver Canucks’ assistant equipment manager was able to thank a Seattle Kraken fan Saturday for making an observation months earlier that very well may have saved his life.

A letter written by Brian “Red” Hamilton was posted on Jan. 1 on the Canucks’ Twitter account and then retweeted by the Kraken in an attempt to allow Hamilton to thank her. With help from social media, the teams were able to get in touch with season ticket holder Nadia Popovici, 22.

Popovici was sitting behind the Canucks bench at the Seattle Kraken’s home opener on Oct. 23 when she noticed a mole she was concerned about on Hamilton’s neck. She wrote her amateur diagnosis on her notes app using large colorful letters, got Hamilton’s attention, and held her phone up to the glass.

“When I held it up against the plexiglass, I smiled too, because I didn’t want him to think I was someone hating on him,” Popovici said.

Popovici has an undergraduate degree from the University of Washington and has been accepted to multiple medical schools.

The next day Hamilton was home in Vancouver and asked his wife to take a look at the mole. His wife described it as a “weird shape.” He then went to the team physician, Dr. Jim Bovard. Bovard did a biopsy on the mole, which “showed malignant melanoma in situ 2, which means the cancer was on the outer layer of the skin but had not penetrated the inner layers of the skin,” the Kraken organization said.

Bovard “diagnosed me with cancer and said he would cure me of cancer all in the same phone call,” said Hamilton.

Popovici, a Tacoma, Washington resident, volunteers in an oncology ward. The experience made her concerned about the mole on Hamilton’s neck.

“I saw Red many times walking back and forth,” Popovici said. “I have the privilege to have knowledge [from the oncology wards]. If there was ever the picture-perfect visual of what malignant melanoma is, that [Hamilton’s mole] was it: the irregular borders, raised surface, discolored and large diameter.”

Popovici and Hamilton met a few hours before game time on Saturday. She was also honored during a first-period TV timeout. The two teams surprised her with a $10,000 joint gift toward her upcoming medical school tuition and expenses. She plans to start her medical school journey this year.

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