When Elly Mayday moved from her small hometown, Aylesbury, Sask., to Vancouver to work as a flight attendant and plus-size model, all of her dreams were coming true. Then the news hit her: She had advanced-stage ovarian cancer.
Just as Mayday was making a name for herself as a model, the troublesome health symptoms she had been experiencing – feeling full without eating anything, bloating and lower back pain – had taken a turn for the worse.
After several trips to the ER and being told from multiple doctors that nothing was wrong with her, 25-year-old Mayday took a break from her dream jobs to prioritize her health.
Deep down she knew there had to be a reason why she was feeling so sick.
Mayday was right to listen to her intuition. Shortly after stopping work, she got the diagnosis for advanced ovarian cancer, the most fatal cancer for women. After receiving treatment and undergoing multiple surgeries, Mayday decided that she didn’t want to hide her new bald look and the scars from her life-saving operations.
Instead, Mayday used her platform as a model to educate others about ovarian cancer.
I caught up with the Canadian model and discussed the importance of advocating for your health and what it’s really like to work in the plus-size fashion industry.
First thing’s first. How’s your health? Are you cancer-free?
“When it comes to health, it’s important to stress to people, that all you have is right now. Cancer or no cancer; health depends on where you are presently. So right now, I’m healthy. But I did have a re-occurrence with ovarian cancer this year.
“In March , I had to have another operation. I kind of felt like, it made sense that I’d have a recurrence, since I was first diagnosed with stage-three ovarian cancer. And when you’re diagnosed that advanced, it’s typical to experience a recurrence.
“But aside from that, I’m feeling good! I’m happy to have this second start and second go of my modelling career.”
Life has its ups and downs. I've made a point of showing both because it's important to not only show us at our best but also at our weakest. I don't want you to just follow me and praise me for what I'm doing, I want you to see that all that is in me.. is in YOU! It is!! It's your job to dig deep and bring it to the surface. To live with strength. ❤️ So here's to being real, to being honest and to being humble. Here is to knowing that whatever you put out into this world will come back to you. You will never lose who you are, like a caterpillar.. you're just changing to become something more beautiful. #ovariancancerawareness #ellymayday #real #realness #girlsempowered #strength #mybodyispowerful #lifeinspo #inspire #realbeauty #bodylove #power #fuel #hope #ovaraincancerawareness
Before your diagnosis with ovarian cancer, a lot of doctors were dismissing your painful symptoms. What did you do to make doctors take your symptoms seriously?
“I had to quit work, […] and that was a big stand for me. It was a way for me to say ‘I’m not well and I’m not going to get better until someone helps me out.’ Because I was tired of coping with my symptoms on my own.
“The reason I’m alive is because I listened to my gut. I listened to myself that something was wrong.”
What advice would you give readers who are also struggling to advocate for their health?
“Don’t underestimate yourself and your opinion on your health. […] You have to trust your instincts. Trust that little voice inside of you if it says something is wrong, and go get yourself checked out.
“If you’re not feeling well, the most important thing you can do is pursue what’s wrong with you. It’s your health so this is your battle. It’s your responsibility because it’s your body.”
How does it feel to be a spokesperson for the disease you’re still fighting?
“I’ve always known I was going to talk to people about something [meaningful.] Life provided something for me to talk about – my journey, my cancer and my story.”
On social media, more people are talking about body positivity. Do you think this is just another social media trend? Or are we really becoming more body positive?
“Society is becoming more body positive. But I do feel like there’s still a negative tone when it comes to plus-sized fashion.
“Thanks to social media, we’re also in this wonderful time where people can have a voice. There are so many influencers with good messages, and you’re able to follow what you believe in. There are a lot of amazing body-positive accounts out there that are run by amazing people. One of my favourite accounts is Tess Holiday’s.”