Skip to content

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.”

Conflicting reports on Yohan Blake’s worlds status

Latest Posts
  1. Carl Lewis becomes full-time University of Houston track coach

    Sep 1, 2014, 2:37 PM EDT

    Carl Lewis AP

    Lewis joins staff with two other Olympic sprint medalists.

  2. Berlin, Hamburg submit Olympic bid intentions

    Sep 1, 2014, 1:09 PM EDT

    Germany flag Getty Images

    Germany is the latest rival to a potential U.S. Olympic bid in 2024.

  3. African wrestlers out of World Championships due to Ebola travel restrictions

    Sep 1, 2014, 11:27 AM EDT

    Wrestling Getty Images

    Seven from Nigeria, two from Sierra Leone out due to Uzbekistan’s restrictions.

  4. Haley Anderson wins Pan Pacs open-water 10K by .01 after jellyfish sting, move to Maui

    Sep 1, 2014, 10:44 AM EDT

    Haley Anderson Getty Images

    Olympic silver medalist swam three days after suffering allergic reaction to jellyfish sting.

  5. Gwen Jorgensen wins World Championship in triathlon

    Aug 30, 2014, 5:27 PM EDT

    Gwen Jorgensen Rich Cruse/USA Triathlon

    American overcame a 69-second deficit, passing 19 women on the 10km run to cap dominating season.

  6. Henry Cejudo withdraws on eve of UFC fight debut

    Aug 29, 2014, 4:59 PM EDT

    Henry Cejudo Getty Images

    Olympic champion cites “medical reasons” hours before weigh-in.

  7. How the FIBA World Cup impacts the Olympics

    Aug 29, 2014, 1:44 PM EDT

    James Harden Getty Images

    Statistically, the U.S. might be better off not winning in Spain in the Olympic scope.

  8. Kayla Harrison wins bronze at World Judo Championships

    Aug 29, 2014, 12:36 PM EDT

    Kayla Harrison Getty Images

    Olympic champion missed 2013 Worlds after knee surgery.

  9. Gwen Jorgensen’s glory awaits in Edmonton

    Aug 29, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

    Gwen Jorgensen Getty Images

    An accountant five years ago, triathlete is dominating after Olympic disappointment.

  10. Tyson Gay last place in Zurich; Jenny Simpson leads U.S. winners (video)

    Aug 28, 2014, 4:56 PM EDT

    Tyson Gay

    Allyson Felix, David Rudisha beaten in first of two Diamond League finals meets.

  11. Man with cerebral palsy towed through Ironman by twin brother

    Aug 28, 2014, 1:33 PM EDT

    tvilling

    Steen and Peder Mondrup completed the Ironman Copenhagen in 15 hours.

  12. Youth Olympics wrap with Closing Ceremony, Lionel Messi cameo (photos)

    Aug 28, 2014, 11:12 AM EDT

    Closing Ceremony

    Olympic Flag handed over to Buenos Aires, host of 2018 Youth Olympics.

  13. Rio Olympics volunteer registration opens

    Aug 28, 2014, 10:37 AM EDT

    Rio 2016 Olympics Getty Images

    Officials looking for 70,000 people over the Olympics and Paralympics.

  14. Yao Ming reflects on Beijing 2008 at Youth Olympics (video)

    Aug 27, 2014, 4:44 PM EDT

    Yao Ming, Lewis Johnson

    Chinese basketball star also updates on what he’s been doing in retirement.

  15. Thomas Bach hopes mixed-gender events in Nanjing impact Olympics (video)

    Aug 27, 2014, 2:44 PM EDT

    Thomas Bach Getty Images

    IOC president sits down with Lewis Johnson at Youth Olympics.

  16. U.S. finishes Youth Olympics with 22 medals, 10 golds

    Aug 27, 2014, 1:52 PM EDT

    Sabrina Massialas Getty Images

    How can we apply the results looking ahead to the Rio Olympics?

  17. Zurich Diamond League final preview

    Aug 27, 2014, 12:17 PM EDT

    David Rudisha Getty Images

    Diamond Races up for grabs, plus Gay vs. Powell in the 100m.

  18. Shakur Stevenson wins Youth Olympic boxing gold; Rio next? (video)

    Aug 27, 2014, 10:39 AM EDT

    Shakur Stevenson Getty Images

    Stevenson has unprecedented junior credentials for a U.S. boxer.

  19. Youth Olympics 8x100m champion relay team crosses continents, events, genders (video)

    Aug 26, 2014, 6:01 PM EDT

    Youth Olympics 8x100m relay Getty Images

    Comoros, British Virgin Islands, Romania join together in track and field finale.

  20. Tanith Belbin visits Youth Olympics Sports Lab (video)

    Aug 26, 2014, 3:20 PM EDT

    Tanith Belbin

    Olympic ice dancing silver medalist tries out non-Olympic sports.