LIVING
03/04/2019 13:42 EST | Updated 03/05/2019 12:10 EST

Elly Mayday, Body-Positive Model And Advocate, Dies From Ovarian Cancer At 30

She was brave, badass and a game-changer in the modelling world and on social media.

"One Hell Ova Woman" reads an embroidery Elly Mayday was gifted last summer.

In an Instagram post, the body-positive model said: "This is one of my favorite gifts I've received. This little tag line came to me one day and I liked the way it felt. I wanted to create a hashtag that said a bit more than "warrior" or survivor, to be honest I've never identified with either words.

"#One Hell Ova Woman" is the woman who doesn't back down. The one who faces obstacles with grace and strength. The "Ova" spelling is a nod towards my girls fighting this disease. (I wish there was another word rather than fighting) but it's not just about cancer. It's just about her. You."

The Canadian role model lost her life to ovarian cancer on Friday and though she never liked to be called a warrior or fighter, she was one hell of a woman — one who dealt with her rare condition with grace, strength and honesty.

This is one of my favorite gifts I've received. This little tag line came to me one day and I liked the way it felt. I wanted to create a hashtag that said a bit more than "warrior" or survivor, to be honest I've never identified with either words. "#One Hell Ova Woman" is the woman who doesn't back down. The one who faces obstacles with grace and strength. The "Ova" spelling is a nod towards my girls fighting this disease. (I wish there was another word rather than fighting) but it's not just about cancer. It's just about her. You. I wanted to create a community of women sharing their stories, women discussing topics on health and life. I'd really like to help women find their voice. In sharing with all of you I know how beneficial it's been—therapeutic in a way to grieve, laugh, pick up and move forward with support and people hearing your voice. I currently have a Facebook group page, females only under #onehellovawoman group and the Instagram @onehellovawoman I think I'll need some help but I'd like to start sharing and helping your voice rise. I know sharing mine has helped, imagine who you could help by sharing yours! I'll be making shirts soon. Would you like one (last photo) 😘 Thank you, Kim @outlinesembroiderybykim I love it so much!

A post shared by Elly Mayday (@elly.mayday) on


Born Ashley Luther, in Aylesbury, Sask., she took on the name Elly Mayday and moved to Vancouver after landing her dream job as a flight attendant and a model. She was just beginning her modelling career when the lower back pain and significant pain from unusual bloating she had been experiencing for three years worsened. For those three years, her symptoms were dismissed as nothing serious by doctors, she previously told HuffPost Canada.

But Mayday knew something wasn't right and advocated for her health. In 2013, the diagnosis that would change and eventually take her life came: advanced-stage ovarian cancer.

6 month CT Scan today..

A post shared by Elly Mayday (@elly.mayday) on

"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," she told BestHealth, becoming a voice for taking your own health into your hands — an MO more and more women are taking on to get the healthcare they need and deserve.

The Canadian Cancer Society reports that about 2,800 Canadian women were diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2017, and an estimated 1,800 died from the disease.

Mayday died almost six years after her diagnosis. During the years between her diagnosis and her death, she quit her job as a flight attendant and began booking photo shoots, posing bald and scarred, sharing her illness with the world.

She became an advocate for speaking her truth on social media, presenting a very real and honest portrayal of what dealing with cancer looks and feels like, all while landing more and more major modelling contracts that honoured her health, body and journey with cancer.

Most people never think they will be the one that get the illness, is in the car accident or the one that has to face a huge hurdle in life. Except me. When I was little, like 7 or 8 I remember sitting out on one of my fav oak trees in my farm. I envisioned talking and teaching massive stadiums full of people about what I had been through. Although I didn't know what "it" would be, in a way I've always been looking for that opportunity to help people. My choice to be public and try and share my strength was imminent. Helping is how I justify my time here is well spent. I'm lucky I have been able to combine it with the fun career of modeling, cause that's also very me (hah no surprise) I appreciate everyone who lets me know I've made a difference, with my advice, my sharing, my photos and just my general approach to a real tough situation. Makes that girl on the oak tree feel pretty complete.

A post shared by Elly Mayday (@elly.mayday) on

She was the face of ADDITION ELLE's BRAve campaign, which is in partnership with Ovarian Cancer Canada.

She was seen as a pioneer for curvy models — another label she rejected.

"We see a lot of images of girls not smiling in their ads, we see a lot of images of girls depleting their body of nutrition," Mayday told CTV News in a 2014 interview. "I don't say 'plus-size' because I'm not a plus-size woman. I'm normal size."

She also became the subject for a documentary that focused on her modelling career.

The documentary, "A Perfect 14," will have its first Canadian screening during the Vancouver International Women in Film Festival on Thursday.

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

A post shared by Elly Mayday (@elly.mayday) on

Mayday's family announced she had died in a moving .

"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.

"You all inspired Ashley and we hope she did the same for you."

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