30-Year-Old Model Dies After Candidly Documenting Her Ovarian Cancer for 5 Years
Elly Mayday wasn't afraid to share everything from surgical scars to chemo side effects.
Model Ashley Luther, better known as Elly Mayday, bravely turned her ovarian cancer diagnosis into a way to encourage women to love their bodies, no matter what they're going through. On Friday, Mayday died of the disease at just 30 years old.
Mayday's family announced her death by posting on her Instagram account and Facebook fanpage. They wrote: “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."
When Mayday was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at age 25, she didn't shy away from documenting her journey. Instead, she used her visibility as a plus-size model to raise awareness of the disease, which usually strikes women who are much older.
She underwent multiple surgeries and chemotherapy, and many of her fans believed she had beaten the cancer. But unfortunately, it returned in 2017. And once again, the Canadian native used social media to reveal what it's really like to be an ovarian cancer warrior, from the scars on her abdomen from several surgeries (including a hysterectomy) to chemo side effects like fevers and dry skin.
Her posts documenting her second bout with cancer began in June of last year, after Mayday went to the ER because she'd been having pain over the previous few months. "Things changed very quickly for me this week and I'm just trying to sort it out now but I feel the plan is coming together," she captioned an Instagram post of herself in a hospital bed.
“I had a plan to take chemo and possibly have an operation to remove tumor and scar tissue, which is blocking my bowel from working,” she wrote. “I’ve spent the past two days not having anything move through me. Consistently vomiting. This morning I went into ER and I’ve been admitted. The blockage is complete so we’re doing another tube to relieve the stress and pain."
For her first bout with the disease, it took almost three years for doctors to finally diagnose her with stage 3 ovarian cancer. “I had [gone] undiagnosed for about 2.5 years,” she previously told Health. “Through menopause, [a] hysterectomy, recurrences and chemo...I merged my modeling career into the life I was now fighting for."
She used her platform to encourage women to trust their bodies and seek treatment if they sense something's not right. Ovarian cancer is often not discovered until it's in a later, less curable stage. That's because the disease often has no symptoms, and when there are signs (like pelvic pain, bloating, or a change in bowel habits), they tend to be mistaken for other conditions, especially in younger women like Mayday.
In July of last year, she posted a video of herself undergoing chemo, admitting that she was “pretty miserable” and not totally comfortable being so vulnerable on social media.
A few days later, she told her followers that she was home on her farm in Canada and even went out for a walk.
When she returned to treatment, she wrote a post detailing some side effects of chemo most people are unaware of, like cold sores and dry skin. She also explained how the fatigue brought on by chemo makes even the smallest self-care moves extremely difficult.
"Little things take energy. Brushing your teeth, washing your hands, showering when able," she captioned a post-shower selfie. "Don’t be too tough, if you need a painkiller. Take one," she continued. "I always try and handle the pain but sometimes ya can’t."
Thanks to her emotionally honest posts about what it's like to undergo grueling treatment twice, Mayday provided a real and raw look at battling ovarian cancer. You can look back on her story by searching the hashtag “#OneHellOvaWoman.”
This post was originally published on July 12, 2018 and updated for accuracy.