Remember the store Hot Topic? The one you (or your kids) went to buy trendy "goth" style items? Turns out it still exists. The "Pleather Shorts Theory" is based on an experience my friend had (and I witnessed!) at Hot Topic nearly twenty years ago.
Liz (the friend) and I were at "The Mall" with her mom. We were cruising the various stores, as children of the 1990s so often did for entertainment, and we, of course, wandered into Hot Topic. There Liz saw a pair of very, very short pleather (fake shiny leather) shorts. She just HAD to have them. But, since we were 14 and didn't have our own cash (at least not enough to buy pleather shorts), she had to ask her mom. Once we found Liz's mom and dragged her to Hot Topic, of course she said no. However, with the "No" came the suggestion: "Why don't you get some of this colorful clip-on fake hair instead?" Wait-what? Liz's mom just gave the okay for red clip-on hair. Of course Liz went with it. Thus, the Pleather Shorts Theory was born. Ask for something outrageous that you will NEVER get (short, short, shorts), then ask for the mildly outrageous item that you really wanted anyway (clip-on hair). Try it some time. It works!
Now, what does this have to do with having a giant tumor in my pancreas? Plenty, actually. Think of the story from the perspective of Liz's mom. Your highly intelligent leggy daughter wants super short pleather shorts, and she's only 14-years-old. Shocking request, right? Of course Liz's mom was thinking "Not a chance in hell." So she decides, to Liz's advantage, that this colorful clip-on hair is a much better alternative to pleather shorts and likely to appease her daughter. She was right. Liz got fake hair and didn't ask for pleather shorts again (that I know of), and Liz's mom spared herself and her daughter of a shocking fashion statement.
Are you following? When I had a cat scan, I got a phone call an hour later saying there were changes to my pancreas (shocking, worrisome, etc.). The next day I met with a very kind gastroenterologist who told me that I had what appeared to be a sizable tumor in my pancreas and it might be a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor, which may or may not be pancreatic cancer (the Steve Jobs pancreatic cancer, if you are at all familiar with the celebrity "faces" of pancreatic cancer). My exact response was, "Oh, shit." Super, super shocking (like super, super, short shorts). Fast forward a month later, a whole freaking month, to actual diagnosis. The same kind doctor called me to tell me the biopsy revealed a pseudopapillary tumor in my pancreas. WHAT A RELIEF! The pseudopapillary tumor was the fake clip on hair in this story. A much, much better alternative to neuroendocrine cancer. A recap: the doctors and I thought I might have neuroendocrine cancer (pleather shorts). I actually had a relatively indolent (slow growing) tumor called a pseudopapillary tumor (fake clip-on hair). So I'm Liz's mom in this story. I was relieved by a scary diagnosis, but it was WAY less scary than what was originally suggested.
In the month waiting for the biopsy to take place, I had learned a bit about the pancreas. I knew that neuroendocrine cancer had a 5-year-survival rate of anywhere from 16-61% (according to cancer.org). I also knew that pseudopapillary tumor patients had a 5-year-survival rate of around 95%. Which would you take? The 95% prognosis, obviously. So the diagnosis was actually a relief. A huge relief. The Pleather Shorts Theory definitely applies.
Of course, there's more to this story. Neuroendocrine tumors aren't always cancer, but when you aren't sure if you have cancer or not your mind explores the worst. A cancer counselor I saw helped me see that for that month I was both living with cancer and not living with cancer. This did some damage to my mental state. The prognosis for my actual tumor is fantastic, but I would obviously rather not have had it. I got the "good" pancreatic tumor. But I still had a "low-grade malignancy," and I have to live with the thought that it might come back (but it probably won't). I'll take that fake hair over the pleather shorts, but I would prefer not to have stepped into Hot Topic in the first place.