I arrived in the emergency room the morning of Wednesday, Dec. 3, with the singular mission of having doctors examine a jabbing pain in my lower spine. By noon, I was laying face up on a MRI scanner, with dye pumped into my veins so doctors could locate and properly diagnose the problem. The pain was so great that they had to pump me with morphine so that I could rest still for the hour-plus scanning. Hours later, the MRI results found no serious issues in my backbone. However, the scan did turn up something in my chest: a “mass of abnormal cell growth,” roughly the size of a walnut.

It was an “incidental” finding, I was told, and one not likely connected to my back pain. The “mass” was situated close to my spinal cord and perhaps was pressing or attaching itself to sensitive nerves. But the imaging showed no clear association between the problems in my lower spine and the dense blob in my upper chest.

Connected or not, the “mass” is a threat, I’m told, not only because it’s potentially malignant, or cancerous, but because of its position near my heart. There’s a good chance it’s benign, but given its location, there are few chances to take. Meaning, it has to come out. The cell mass is not causing me pain right now, but it could cause major complications later in life. It’s already the size of something that could be problematic sooner in life.