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