Surrounded by a large crowd, a woman lifts up a sign with a giant warning symbol on it.

Spotting Melanoma on a Rival, Three BIG RED WORDS Can Save a Life

Vancouver, British Columbia, and Seattle, Washington, are two amazingly beautiful cities separated by 142 miles and an international border. The two-hour (or so) drive along Interstate 5 between the two cities is filled with lush, green scenery and runs parallel to Puget Sound on one end and the Strait of Georgia on the other. I recommend a summer drive between the two.

Bringing it to the ice

These two cities not only rival each other in natural beauty but once again on the ice. I mean the ice found at hockey rinks. The newly formed, expansion Seattle Kraken of the National Hockey League (NHL) dropped the puck for the first time this past fall. It has been nearly 100 years since the Seattle Metropolitans skated professionally. For years, the only NHL franchise in the Pacific Northwest was the Vancouver Canucks, but that all changed on October 23rd of last year. Unfortunately for the Kraken, the Canucks spoiled the opener for Seattle by beating their new rivals, 4-2. Vancouver stole the bragging rights, at least for a night. By many accounts, though, this was not even the most significant event of the night.

A hockey fan spotted a suspicious mole

Nadia Popovici, a Kraken fan, spotted a suspicious mole on the neck of Canucks assistant equipment manager Brian “Red” Hamilton’s neck.1 From her seat behind the Canucks bench, Ms. Popovici typed a message with the words “mole”, “cancer”, and “doctor” in large red letters on her phone and showed it to Hamilton after the game. Mr. Hamilton showed the team doctor and the mole was quickly removed. It measured about two centimeters, had irregular borders, and was red-brown in color.

It was melanoma

It turned out to be type-2 melanoma. The skin cancer was detected early enough to be removed and treated. Hamilton felt a strong sense of relief, but there was another big question: Who was this woman who had sent him this possibly life-saving message? Hamilton had to know.

He wanted to find and thank her

Mr. Hamilton posted on the team’s Twitter account in search of this Seattle fan who had helped her Canadian rival. Ms. Popovici was found and alerted just a few hours later. She was sleeping at her home in Tacoma after working the overnight shift as a crisis intervention specialist at a suicide crisis hotline. Evidently, saving lives is not new to her.

Reunited, and it feels so good

Mr.Hamilton and Ms. Popovici reunited before the next Kraken-Canucks game on January 1 in Seattle. Hamilton had a message for his new life-saving pal from south of the border. He told her that his mom loved her for what she had done. It turns out that the love would come from the two NHL franchises as well. The teams combined forces to present Ms. Popovici with a $10,000 scholarship to be used for medical school expenses.

I am so glad that I became aware of this story, I needed some good news today

This is what I appreciated the most:

  • Ms. Popovici had her skin cancer antennae up and noticed something suspicious.
  • Ms. Popovici did something about it and alerted Mr. Hamilton.
  • Mr. Hamilton did something about it and got the mole looked at by a medical professional and it was excised.
  • Mr. Hamilton did something to show his gratefulness and found Ms. Popovici.
  • The Canucks and the Kraken did the right thing by supporting Ms. Popovici and bringing attention to skin cancer detection and treatment.

"Beautiful" doesn't begin to describe what happened at that ice rink.

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