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A Life-Saving Spot: Hockey Fan Saves an Assistant Manager’s Life

In melanoma news overseas, The New York Times has recently shared the story of a hockey fan who saved the Vancouver Canuck’s assistant equipment manager’s life.

The fan, Nadia Popovici was watching the game when she looked down and saw a worrisome mole on the back of Brian Hamilton’s neck. Through her time as a nursing assistant and as a new medical school student, she knew it had the signs of a cancerous mole due to its size, irregular shape and red-brown colour.

The idea that it could be dangerous ate at her during the entire game, and by the end, she knew she had to say something. She wrote a note on her phone, highlighting the words ‘mole’, ‘cancer’ and ‘doctor’ to make it obvious. Ms Popovici got Mr Hamilton’s attention through the plexiglass and held up the note for him to read. She knew there was a chance it might not be received well and that she might seem crazy, but she was so sure it needed checking because if it had been, it would likely have been removed already.

Mr Hamilton thought it was weird, but the note had worked and brought his attention to it. He later asked his partner if she could see a mole. She said yes. He then asked the team doctor if it needed looking at, who confirmed it did. Mr Hamilton went and saw his doctor and had it removed.

The biopsy results came back, showing it was a type-2 malignant melanoma. Type 2 means the melanoma was growing deeper within the surface of the skin and could easily metastasize and move to other parts of the body. His doctor confirmed that because they caught it early, it was easily removed and treated, but if Mr Hamilton didn’t notice it for another few years, it could have cost him his life.

Mr Hamilton labelled the fan a hero and took to social media to seek her out and thank her. He used the team’s Twitter account to post a letter to track the fan down, which Ms Popovici discovered a few hours later.  They were reunited and the story has been running on the team’s Twitter and around the world ever since.

Mr Hamilton credits Ms Popovici with saving his life, sharing that ‘my mom wants her to know that she loves her’. At the next game, Ms Popovici came and sat back in the exact same seat and was presented with a $10k scholarship towards her medical school studies.

Ms Popovici’s ability to spot a worrying mole helped save a life and learning to do this could save yours too.

The Cancer Council suggests using the ABCD of melanoma to check for any lumps, bumps or moles that:

  • Are Asymmetrical. If you divided it in half, is it equal and the same?
  • Have an unusual Border. Check to see if it has a spreading, growing or unusual edge.
  • Have various Colours on it.
  • Are changing in Diameter or size.

Not sure what you’re looking for? You can read more about what they look like here.

Found something on your skin that you think might be a worry? Get a professional skin check as soon as possible to both put your mind at rest and to receive treatment right away if something is amiss.

Skin cancer is often described as one of the most common, yet most preventable diseases. Regular skin checks from an expert doctor are one of the best ways to ensure your spots and moles aren’t anything concerning, and if they are, to get them treated before they can turn into anything severe. Just like Mr Hamilton discovered, the earlier melanomas and skin cancers are detected, the better.