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My Unsung Hero series: A woman who met her hero at a health conference

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Time now for My Unsung Hero, our series from the team at Hidden Brain. These are the stories of people whose kindness left a lasting impression on someone else. Jackie Briggs met her unsung hero at a women's health conference in 2006.

JACKIE BRIGGS: For several years, I'd been working 60-hour work weeks in this high-pressure IT job, and I had very little time for myself. So I really wanted to go and hear this one particular speaker. As a few hundred women milled around different booths, picking up brochures and eating crudites, this lovely dark-haired woman came up to me, and she said, excuse me, but I can't help but notice your arm. I had what my boss later described as what he thought was a rose tattoo. It was on my upper right bicep. And I was uncharacteristically wearing a sleeveless dress that day. Well, this woman - she asked me if I'd seen a dermatologist about this smallish, irregular, almost birthmark-looking spot, and I assured her I had. She pressed me and said, when? And I had to stop to think. And I counted back the months - no, years. It had been over three years. I was supposed to follow up, but I was so caught up in my job, I never did. The dermatologist's office never reached out to me, either. So blah, blah, blah, time moves on.

So this woman urged me to call my doctor Monday morning first thing. She explained she was a nurse for a plastic surgeon. And as she gently touched my arm, she said, really, don't wait. And thanks to her, I didn't wait. In the following weeks of doctors' appointments, biopsies and then the surgery - they're all a bit of a blur, but - because everything moved very fast. But my melanoma was removed, and my 6-inch ragged scar that travels almost from the top of my shoulders down my arm is my everyday reminder of her. If I hadn't listened to her, I probably wouldn't be here. So to my hero, thank you for my life.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

KELLY: Jackie Briggs of Portland, Ore. Jackie says that, about two years after that conference and her melanoma surgery, she quit that 60-hour-a-week IT job. She's happily retired, tries to hike about 20 miles a week and she just finished writing her first novel. You can find more stories from My Unsung Hero wherever you get podcasts. And to share the story of your unsung hero, you can record a voice memo on your phone and email it to My Unsung Hero at hiddenbrain.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.