At the age of 25, Elly Mayday had it all.
She landed her dream job as a flight attendant and was just beginning her career as a plus-size model. She'd been born in Aylesbury, Sask. (population: 50), and grew up to chase her dreams in Vancouver. Mayday was ready to take on life and share her adventures with the world.
That was until she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Twice.
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
After suffering from irregular lower back pain and bloating for three years, symptoms dismissed as nothing serious by doctors, Elly was given the news that her prognosis wasn't good.
Each year, 2,800 Canadian women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, with 56 per cent not living past five years of their diagnosis.
It's a shocking statistic, one that could have driven Mayday to retreat from the public eye. Instead, she did the exact opposite.
Yeah we've all heard "chicks dig scars" but I don't think we ever heard the script flipped on this one. Men like scars too! For many, scars mean you've lived, possibly even gave life. What's more beautiful then that? Scars are tattoos with better stories. If you meet me, it's like the second thing I show ya after my smile. It's apart of me, feel like I've had it my whole life and I don't miss my storyless stomach at all.
She quit her job as a flight attendant and began booking more photo shoots, posing bald and scarred, and began sharing her battle with the world.
"I had 30,000 people following me on Facebook and a couple contracts in my hands, and I thought, 'OK, here’s the bomb. Here's where I’m being tested in my life. Here's where I’m going to show them who I am,'" Mayday told HuffPost Canada in an interview. "I think being public about a disease that isn’t talked about and that isn’t given the notoriety and the awareness that its serves and its needs is an opportunity to step up."
On social media, Mayday has over 67,000 follower on Instagram and nearly 500,000 fans on Facebook who are captivated by her stunning photos and bravery to share her story. These platforms have allowed Mayday to feel less alone, knowing other women are able to reach out to her and be able to encourage her and share their stories, too.
Mayday believes that putting yourself out there, and being authentic and real, can really have an effect on people. Now as a professional model, she wants other girls to know that she is exactly like they are.
"I want to really instill on girls that 'I’m you!' I’m not polished all the time like how it is on social media. I’m not that way. I’m not Photoshopped all the time. I want girls to be able to relate to me, and women, too."
It's this "bravery personified" that landed Mayday as the face of Addition Elle's BRAve campaign.
Because of her dedication to raising awareness for the disease and her body positive activism, Addition Elle and Ovarian Cancer Canada knew Mayday was the perfect fit.
I'm here and I'm ready to shake things up with #thebraveevent beginning tonight at @additionelle in #toronto join me from 5-7 for some sweets, some beats and a fun night to celebrate this collaboration with @ovariancancercanada let's show the world our #Ladyballs hashtag and start the conversation with the women you love! 💙 link in Bio for more info.
"I’m a very proud Canadian girl. It’s wonderful to have such a huge company across Canada that can reach so many women. All these new sets of eyes, all these new minds that are being introduced to ovarian cancer and to understanding the awareness, and how much this cancer and disease needs support is amazing," Mayday explains.
"It’s huge to have them partner up, I think it’s going to be the collaboration of the year, and I hope it goes on for many more years."
In the campaign's images the blond beauty is seen baring her surgery scars.
But Mayday doesn't see them as scars. She sees them as beauty marks.
"We all have scars. I see the beauty in getting through something and embracing the things that changed us, but maybe change us for the better," she explains. "A lot of women talk about their stretch marks or the marks from having babies. Those marks are something I would love to have than what I have. You’ve had something wonderful from those marks, and I actually do too!"
"Whether it’s marks physically or emotionally, we all have scars and I think that our scars make us better. Our scars give us stories to talk about and they connect us."
Mayday explains how her cancer diagnosis has taught her who she really is inside and what she is all about. She has not only changed the way she now thinks of herself, but her perspective on beauty has changed, too.
"I don’t describe myself as what is on the outside, because I’ve had everything taken away on the outside because of cancer. Beauty is who we are, not what we are. Beauty is not something that we wear, or something that we do to ourselves, it’s something that is inside of us and that’s what is beautiful."
And if there's one thing that Elly credits to getting here through the darkest and toughest of times, it's her confidence.
"I was confident going into it, I was confident going out of it, and I was confident all the way through," she says.
I have the #ladyballs to ask for more funding for research and awareness. Fact is, outcomes for ovarian cancer haven't changed in 50 years! 50 YEARS! This disease is claiming 5 lives a day in Canada and before my diagnosis it hadn't crossed my mind.. but it doesn't affect you until it's your mother, your friend, your sister, your wife or your daughter. I've been given time to fight for the women who aren't heard, who weren't heard and to tell everyone that we have #Ladyballs and we are demanding more funding. Please support and post, hashtag #ladyballs and tell all the women you love to have a look at @ovariancancercanada to know more about signs and symptoms.
"I encourage women to find confidence before anything happens in their life! You can always get back up. You’re not falling down a set of stairs that are no longer there, you’re going to climb up those ones."
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