By Heather Main
Student Millie Plisner is celebrating gaining her first class honours degree – just weeks after she became one of the youngest women in the country to undergo an elective double mastectomy aged just 21.
Millie Plisner lost her mum to breast cancer in 2011, and after learning she had a rare genetic disorder that meant she too was likely to develop the same illness, bravely decided to have a preventative double mastectomy.
But the hard-working student refused to take any time off from her degree to have the major surgery – and managed to fit in writing her dissertation around hospital appointments.
She’s now landed her dream job, working as a care manager – helping children with behavioural problems work with horses, after her late mum instilled her with a lifelong love of horses.
And last week she graduated from the University of Coventry with a first class honours degree in Occupational Therapy.
Millie, from Birmingham, had already battled Thyroid cancer in her first year at university – but despite beating that, she was later diagnosed with Cowden’s syndrome – meaning it was likely that she would develop a different kind of cancer.
Millie, who is now 22, said: “When my surgeon told me I could have a mastectomy, it didn’t even cross my mind to say no, or delay it. I just thought ‘right, get on with it’.
“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.
“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.
“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.”
Millie initially visited doctors after noticing a lump on her breast in 2013.
After her mum, Amy, died from breast cancer when Millie was just 15, medics were keen to keep an eye on Millie and her two sisters.
Although the lump was revealed to be benign, her eagle-eyed surgeon noticed a lump on her throat – which turned out to be thyroid cancer.
Millie battled the cancer, and was given the all-clear when she had her thyroid removed in 2014, Millie continued to be monitored by doctors, who noticed that she had developed benign lumps on her breasts.
Doctors revealed she was suffering from Cowden’s Syndrome – a rare inherited disorder that causes multiple non-cancerous tumours to appear – although there is up to an 85 per cent risk of them becoming cancerous.
After talking with her surgeon, Millie decided to go ahead with a double mastectomy – despite being just 21 and still in her final year of university.
She underwent a two-part operation, and finally completed her reconstruction in August.
She 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.”
Millie is now focusing on fundraising for various cancer charities. She has already raised thousands of pounds for charity, but her next challenge is running the Hackney Half Marathon in May. You can sponsor her here: HERE.