Ato Boldon talks to last year’s 400m Diamond Race winner Novlene Williams-Mills for the latest episode of IAAF Inside Athletics.

As career defining moments go, the one that Novlene Williams-Mills experienced three years ago was not one she was expecting.

A matter of weeks before London 2012, the Jamaican 400m runner was diagnosed with breast cancer. That is not news anyone wants to hear, and for Williams-Mills, a genuine medal prospect, it was a colossal blow.

“Everything was going how I wanted it to go. My season started good, and then I got a bomb,” she tells Ato Boldon.

“I didn’t know where life would take me. I didn’t know what would be the outcome. I didn’t know anything. I was unsure of everything.”

After consulting with her doctor and devoted husband, Williams-Mills travelled to London nonetheless. She kept her illness to herself, however, not wanting “the pity party” that would come with the publicity.

“Most of the time I would just go to practice, try to be out there with [the rest of the Jamaican team]. The reality of it was every time I would go to the bathroom to take a shower I would take more time than anybody else because I would be in there running that water and just crying. It was so hard.”

Remarkably, the Jamaican left London with a bronze medal from the 4x400m and a fifth place finish in her individual event. It was then that the real battle began: three days after returning home she underwent surgery. A series of operations followed until her final procedure in January 2013. A mere eight months later she was lining up on the start line in the final of the Moscow world championships.

It was a remarkable recovery, and one that was completed last season when Williams-Mills finished as Diamond Race winner for the 400m. Last year she also won Commonwealth silver in the 400m and gold in the 4x400m, as well as a second place finish in the Conti cup.

Yet despite an incredibly successful return, the 33-year-old says she still has to combat self-doubt that has been with her since the start of her career. Her former coach Tom Jones helped her overcome it in the early part of her career, but confidence remains something that doesn’t come naturally to the 2007 world championship bronze medal winner.

“[Coach Jones] was able to put the work course together that would work for me. He helped me to believe in myself,” she says.

“I think I have to learn still to believe in myself. I’ve run with all these girls before – and beaten them all! So it’s like going back into a finals and stop being like 'Okay this one is in the final, that one is in the final'. Just run my own race. Just concentrate on my own lane.

“I think that’s going to be the big factor for me. Black out everything else, everyone else, and just concentrate on me.”

Watch the full 10-minute interview below: