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Jamaican Williams-Mills ran at Olympics with breast cancer

Jul 1, 2013, 9:00 AM EDT

Olympics Day 8 - Athletics Getty Images

Jamaica’s top 400-meter runner revealed publicly that she was diagnosed with breast cancer a year ago in an interview with the Daily Mail.

Novlene Williams-Mills, a 2004 University of Florida graduate, was told she had cancer on June 25, 2012, according to the report.

“It feels like your own body has betrayed you, like I’ve been stabbed,” she told the Daily Mail. “I’m an athlete. I work out, I train. It can’t be possible.”

She won the Jamaican trials six days later and then finished fifth in the Olympic 400-meter final and bagged her third straight bronze medal in the 4×400-meter relay.

“Was it crazy? Yes,” she told the Daily Mail. “That’s everybody’s dream, to run at the Olympics. But I was thinking about my hurdles that I have to come back to fight. I was thinking: ‘Am I going to survive this?’

“My teammates in the relay did not know. But I was standing on the podium, and I didn’t know if I would ever run another race.”

Three days after the Games surgeons removed a small lump in her breast. She then had a double mastectomy, a further operation to cut out the remaining cancerous cells and reconstructive surgery. Her final operation was on January 18.

Williams-Mills compared her struggle to that of actress Angelina Jolie, who also underwent a preventive double mastectomy, an operation which removes all or part of breasts.

It reduced her future risk of cancer from 99 percent to maybe three percent, she told the Daily Mail.

Williams-Mills returned to competition four months after that final operation. She won her seventh Jamaican 400-meter title on June 23, booking her place at August’s world championships in Moscow. The 2007 world bronze medalist is still a medal threat. Her season’s best of 50.01 makes her the fifth-fastest woman this year.

“I’m still one of the top 400m runners in the world and I want to see what I can do,” she told the Daily Mail. “Moscow will be for all the breast cancer survivors out there. I want them to know it’s still possible.”

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  1. gojugirl1 - Jul 2, 2013 at 8:51 AM

    Way to go, Novlene! I was diagnosed after I retired from track and field (had the lump during my last meet ever, but hadn’t found it yet) and had a bi-lateral with reconstruction as well. Started karate during radiation (I know, right?) because it felt good to hit something and scream since I also felt like my body betrayed me after years of hard training and eating right. But cancer is a genetic crap shoot, it really is. It’s amazing what the body can go through and recover from, though. It will be nine years since my diagnosis (this October), and I’m still training (and now competing) in karate. Hats off to you for returning to form. Looking forward to seeing you do your thang at the World Championships. :-)

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