SEATTLE – 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 January 1 on the Canucks’ Twitter account and then retweeted by the Kraken. The letter was an attempt to allow Hamilton to thank the fan. With help from social media, the teams were able to get in touch with her.
Season ticket holder Nadia Popovici, 22, was sitting behind the Canucks bench at the Seattle Kraken’s home opener on October 23 when she noticed a mole she was concerned about on Brian “Red” 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.
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. He did a biopsy on the mole. “The biopsy 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 Seattle Kraken organization said.
Bovard “diagnosed me with cancer and said he would cure me of cancer all in the same phone call,” Hamilton said.
Popovici, a Tacoma, Washington resident, volunteers in an oncology ward. This experience helped inform her about the cancerous 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 up a few hours before game time 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.
Popovici has an undergraduate degree from the University of Washington and has been accepted to multiple medical schools. She plans to start her medical school journey this year.
She grew up rooting for the Vancouver Canucks, but when the Kraken came to her hometown Popovici changed her allegiance.