29.09.2020

Coventry student celebrates degree weeks after mastectomy

Incredibly, Miss Plisner, from Birmingham, had the operation in her final year at university and stunned tutors by refusing to take time off. Instead she sat her exams and wrote her dissertation in between hospital appointments and while recuperating.

After losing her mother to breast cancer, Millie Plisner was distraught when she was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition which doctors revealed would make her more susceptible to the disease.

But instead of worrying about her future, the student, who has Cowden’s Syndrome, was determined to take control of her life.

So – aged just 21 – she took the brave decision to undergo a double mastectomy and have both breasts removed. She is thought to be one of the youngest women in Britain to have the procedure.

Yesterday it emerged she had passed with flying colours and been awarded a first class degree in occupational therapy.

Millie Plisner celebrated a first-class degree just weeks after having a double mastectomy.

She lost her own mother (pictured) to breast cancer when she was just 15 years old.

The student made the decision to have both her breasts removed to take control of her life.

WHAT IS COWDEN’S SYNDROME?

Cowden’s syndrome causes multiple noncancerous, tumour-like growths that can become malignant. Such growths most commonly occur on the skin, and the lining of the nose and mouth.

Cowden’s syndrome affects around one in 200,000 people. Sufferers are at risk of several types of cancer, particularly breast, thyroid and uterus, in females.

Patients often develop these at a younger age than most people, such as in their 30s and 40s.

It is caused by genetic mutations.

‘I don’t really think I had a choice’

Last night Miss Plisner said: ‘When my mum was diagnosed with cancer, she just lived life to the full every day – she didn’t mope around asking “why me”, or stop living her life – so that’s the way I want to live my life.

‘My surgeon told me I could have a mastectomy (and) it didn’t even cross my mind to say no, or delay it. I just thought “right, get on with it”.

‘Lots of people at uni thought I should take a year out to recover, but I didn’t see the point.

‘People say to me; “You’re so brave” to have made the decision to have a mastectomy – but I don’t think it’s brave.

She said: ‘I would be lying if I said it was easy, but I don’t really think I had a choice.

‘The way I look at it is that I am so lucky that my condition has been diagnosed and I’ve been able to make a decision to take control of my future.’

Miss Plisner wrote her dissertation between hospital visits and while recovering.

She had the operation in her final year at university and refused to take time off to recover. Miss Pilsner said she was inspired by her mother who lived life to full despite her diagnosis.

‘Angelina Jolie’ effect

Miss Plisner was just 15 when her mother, Amy, died, so when, three years’ later, she noticed a lump in her breast she quickly went to get it checked out.

Thankfully, the lump was non-cancerous, but while undergoing tests an eagle-eyed medic noticed a lump in her throat and insisted that too was tested.

Unfortunately, Miss Plisner, who by then was in her first year of studies at Coventry University, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

After treatment, Miss Plisner was given the all clear in 2014, but continued to be monitored by doctors, who noticed that she had started to develop benign lumps on her breasts.

After talking with her surgeon, Miss Plisner decided a double mastectomy was the best way to secure her future. She went ahead with the operation in March this year and had both breasts reconstructed via an operation in August. She is thought to be one of the youngest women in Britain to undergo such surgery.

There has been a rise in the number of women – especially those carrying the faulty BRCA1 gene which is known to increase the likelihood of developing breast cancer – undergoing double mastectomies in recent years. It followed publicity surrounding actress Angelina Jolie, who discovered she was a carrier, and had both breasts removed in May 2013.

Studies have since shown that the ‘Angelina Jolie effect’ is real and had dramatically increased awareness and the public’s understanding of breast cancer treatment and surgery.

Miss Plisner, who has already landed her dream job helping children with behavioural problems using horse therapy, added: ‘To me, the fact I am only in my early 20s when I have had a mastectomy is irrelevant – I’ve been given the chance to live a worry-free life.’

Miss Pilsner had lumps in her throat when she was 18 and later developed thyroid cancer

Miss Pilsner, who is one of the youngest people to have a double mastectomy in the UK, hopes the drastic decision will save her life (pictured holding a photograph of her mother)

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