Briony Lago is a medical student at McMaster University.

Mass. What an interesting word we use. MAH-SSSSS… Satisfying to say, disturbing to hear. What is it? A term we use when we don’t know. A term with inherent weight to convey its seriousness.

But what is it? It’s any number of things. An undifferentiated constellation of possibilities swirling in a galaxy of questions. Benign versus malignant, abscess versus cyst versus who-knows-what-else. More terminology designed to baffle the recipient and give solace to the provider. A way to pretend we can glimpse the unknown at first glance.

But what is it? By definition, masses exert gravitational pull. You know, F=ma and all. And a mass will aptly pull the host’s life out of alignment to revolve around it for the unforeseeable future. A personal sun providing fear and worry instead of warmth. An undesired orbit making them wish they could just become an asteroid or pretend they are the centre of the universe after all.

But what is it? A warping of their spacetime, reality knocked off-axis. Maybe the mass earns a name or a cause, but by then its gravity is in motion and the patient is staring down their personal event horizon. They fight the acceleration sucking them into the blackness beyond what is known. Time is meaningless, with each second more precious than the last. Maybe they didn’t notice their weightlessness disappearing…

Masses exert gravity. Perhaps the forces balance in a stable orbit, or perhaps the downward spiral has already begun.