Canadian Model Elly Mayday Wants To Show You What Ovarian Cancer Is Really Like

Elly Mayday doesn’t care if her Instagram post makes you unfollow her. She just wants to give a real look at what ‘thriving’ with ovarian cancer looks like.

elly mayday photo credit: shutterstock

Updated March 2019:

Sadly, Elly Mayday passed away on Friday, March 1, one month before her 31st birthday.

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Elly Mayday’s given name was Ashley Shandrel Luther. She was born on April 15, 1988 in Saskatchewan, Canada. Ashley was deeply loved by her family in Canada and in Germany. . . Ashley was a country girl at heart who had a passion for life that was undeniable. She dreamed of making an impact on people’s lives. She achieved this through the creation of Elly Mayday which allowed her to connect with all of you. Her constant support and love from her followers held a special place in her heart. . . Ashely passed away on Friday, March 1st at 5:14pm. You all inspired Ashley and we hope she did the same for you. Feel free to share your positive thoughts and memories below. . . love and light, . Ashely’s loving family

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Updated September 2018:

Canadian model and ovarian cancer advocate Elly Mayday is once again receiving treatment for ovarian cancer. Mayday shared the news that her cancer had grown via Instagram over the summer, writing “I’ll be honest. Finding out just how much this cancer has grown this week has hit me so hard.”

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I’ll be honest. Finding out just how much this cancer has grown this week has hit me so hard. I’m feeling hopeful with all of your encouragement and positivity. I knew she would come back to me but for a few days. I just floated. You walk around empty. I hated every interaction that felt mediocre. Every conversation I couldn’t give two shits about. (If you listen, you’ve probably had a few today) when you’re in the dark, light feels impossible to find. I guess that’s what depression feels like. :::::: One of my followers asked, how do you stay so positive. Well I’m not always positive. I don’t really trust people who are always happy and big smiles and thumbs up about everything. Life is crap sometimes. I wasn’t positive this week. I was nervous to talk about it but I responded with “it’s the only thing I have a little bit of control of” that’s the truth. Just give yourself some time. Not every day is going to be a good one but you will have them. Being hopeful will attract more energy. Life is made of energy. Good energy is everything we need to seek out. Find that, find some light and turn it on for someone else. ???? Artwork @jasonnaylor

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True to her desire to spread awareness, Mayday remains committed to showing what this disease really looks like by posting photos and sharing thoughts about the hardest moments of her life. She’s shared photos of her surgery scars, chemo treatments and injection sites. And she doesn’t care if some of her posts scare off squeamish followers. “Lost a few followers the other day with my post showing all my injection sites. I do my best to not freak you guys out while at the same time giving you a real look at my situation,” she wrote. Mayday also bravely chats about how she’s feeling via Instagram Stories and even shared a video of the moment she shaved her head.

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Lost a few followers the other day with my post showing all my injection sites. I do my best to not freak you guys out while at the same time giving you a real look at my situation. I don’t think my page is typical of the cancer story. I don’t speak heavily about religion because I believe it isn’t something that unites us all, rather divides. I speak about love, since I believe that’s more connecting. I’m not the “thumbs up” cancer girl that’s going to always post positively. I’m not throwing shade on those who are, it’s just not me. I’m not a happy person everyday. I’m not a warrior, I don’t label myself with this “fight” vocabulary associated with cancer. I’m just a girl who’s working towards getting better. I know I did a boxing shoot but this was before I understood cancer for myself. I don’t celebrate being a survivor. I think it’s alright for others to do so but I feel too aware of how many don’t move past this disease. Being that I am so public I have met and lost many women. I’m also never truly done with this disease. I personally don’t like that I’m losing my summer, being poked with needles and confined to living in a hospital, among many other things I could complain about.. but I can’t do anything about it so why be upset. I’ve made the best of my situation because I’ve chosen to. I hope you take the time to understand your feelings about this disease for yourself. If you are planning on being public about it, know there are sacrifices you’re making but know there is also benefits to being open. (It’s best to comment rather than dm me your response to this, I read my comments)

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While Mayday looks like one of the most brave and positive women you’ve ever seen, she’s quick to point out that she’s not positive all the time and shares just as many bad moments as she celebrates good ones. Join us in wishing Elly Mayday all the best during her treatment, and you can check out our interview with her below (originally published June 2017).

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I’m not super keen on being the girl with the hard and difficult life, which I’m sure many people think when they learn about me. It’s not fun being the example of hardships. I do however enjoy showing the light side of a tough situation. That there is joy in the storm of cancer. That it can give, despite all the things it takes. I can’t tell you how often I’ve had someone say, “I had an awful day but nothing compared to what you’re facing.” I felt My friends didn’t relate for a long time cause, “I had it the worst” so they wouldn’t complain or vent to me. I encourage it. As far as having it the worse.. do I really? I mean.. I could not be receiving healthcare, I could be 24/7 in pain, I could have no one supporting me and the list goes on. So even though I don’t like being the example of hardship, I love showing how you can make the best of it. I feel like a lot of you look to me for strength, it gives me purpose to show you how this farm girl does it. We all need purpose in life. I just realized this is a quote by @claire.wineland a young woman who recently passed but spoke so beautiful about her illness. My heart aches for her, she had no idea the impact she made on so many lives. ???? cute art by @emi.inappropriate, cartoon Elly’s robe is a little short. She’s living her best life though ????

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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. (This is one of the most commonly missed signs of ovarian cancer.)

Mayday was right to listen to her intuition. (Learn how to be your own healthcare advocate.) Shortly after stopping work, she got the diagnosis for advanced ovarian cancer, one of the most fatal cancers 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. She is the face of ADDITION ELLE’s BRAve campaign, which is in partnership with Ovarian Cancer Canada.

Best Health caught up with the Canadian model to discuss 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 [2017], 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.”

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.”

Next, find out the most common cancer in your province, and learn how to spot the signs of women’s cancer.