When the Blue Jays entered the home stretch last season, baseball was the furthest thing from Melky Cabrera's mind.

It was mid-August and Cabrera had just received the news that a tumor had been discovered in his lower back. All of a sudden, the game that Cabrera had come to love over so many years wasn't all that important.

The first thoughts that went through his head were concern not only for himself, but for his family. It wasn't a question of when Cabrera would return to the field, but whether he'd even be around to see his 30th birthday.

"When they told me that I had a tumor, I thought I was going to pass away, I thought I was going to die," Cabrera said Friday morning through interpreter Luis Rivera. "I thought I was going to leave my kids behind, my family. I know one day I'm going to die, but I'm ready to do it yet."

The source of Cabrera's constant discomfort had been a mystery to both himself and the Blue Jays organization for several months prior to the frightening discovery. Cabrera was only 29 years old and supposedly in the prime of his career, yet he was moving around like someone who was at least 10 years his senior.

The power in the lower half of his body had completely disappeared. On the rare occasion that Cabrera actually drove the ball with some authority, he often had to stop at first base because he simply wasn't mobile enough to make it to second.