Published Jan 3, 2022
The mole on Brian “Red” Hamilton’s neck turned out to be melanoma, but who knows when he would have found out if not for a concerned fan of the NHL’s newest team, the Seattle Kraken.
“The mole on the back of your neck is possibly cancerous,” the message read. “Please go see a doctor!”
The concerned fan, Nadia Popovici, pressed her phone displaying the message against the glass as Hamilton, the Vancouver Canucks assistant equipment manager, walked past the Canucks’ bench. She was sitting in the stands with other fans when she saw the mole on his neck. Unsure if Hamilton knew about it, she typed out a message for him.
Hamilton tells CBS News that the message “threw me off” at first, but over the weekend, the hockey team posted a message from Hamilton on Twitter attempting to find the fan.
“I am trying to find a very special person and I need the hockey community’s help,” the letter reads. “To this woman I am trying to find, you changed my life, and now I want to find you to say, ‘Thank you so very much!’”
“Problem is, I don’t know who you are or where you are from. I do know that you were sitting behind the Canucks bench the night the Seattle Kraken played their first ever home game. That evening, Oct. 23rd, and the message you showed me on your cell phone will forever be etched into my brain and has made a true life-changing difference for me and my family.”
“Your instincts were right and that mole on the back of my neck was a malignant melanoma and thanks to your persistence and the quick work of our doctors, it is now gone.”
Hamilton says that once he was made aware of the mole, he woke up the next day and said to his partner, Jess, “‘It was your effort and your persistence … the way you wrote it on your phone. I owe it to this person to get checked, if she went this far, I don’t know her, I don’t know anything about her.'”
Within an hour of posting the message, Seattle Kraken fan Popovici was found. And before Vancouver’s game against Seattle on New Year’s Day, Hamilton and Popovici met.
“I felt bad at the moment because I’m walking off the bench and she put her phone up to the glass and on the phone it said the mole on the back of your neck is cancer (melanoma). And it threw me off,” Hamilton tells CBS News. “So I kind of just shrugged and kept going. My initial response when I found out was I felt bad because I felt like I didn’t really give her the time of day. I’m excited that she knows because she needs to know.”
“I am fortunate we have doctors on the team who can help,” Hamilton says.
Popovici, a soon-to-be medical school student, tells the news outlet that she understands his perspective about their interaction.
“Imagine how jarring that is for you to be at work and someone just kind of looks at you and says, ‘Hey, maybe you go see a doctor.’ That’s not what you want to hear. So the fact that I got to see him and talk to his family members that have been really impacted by him dodging a big bullet — that’s so special.”
In order to find skin cancer, such as melanoma, early, it is important that you complete regular self-checks of your skin. If you are at high risk for developing this cancer, it is even more important.
Dr. Cecilia Larocca, a dermatologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, recommends looking at your skin once a month for anything suspicious, using the acronym ABCDE as a checklist:
If you find any of these, do not jump to conclusions. Having abnormal moles does not necessarily mean you are at risk for skin cancer.
“There are some patients who fall into the category of atypical mole syndrome,” Dr. Larocca tells SurvivorNet. That is usually someone who has more than 50 moles, with at least five being clinically atypical — meaning they either are larger, irregular or have multiple colors. These people are at a slightly increased risk of melanoma, Dr. Larocca says.
An atypical mole may be one of three types: mild, moderate or severely atypical. If the mole is moderately to severely atypical, it could suggest that the mole may one day become a melanoma.
Contributing: SurvivorNet staff