Interview: Elly Mayday
You may have read our previous blog post discussing how the above charities are working towards eliminating ovarian cancer, but we also wanted to highlight a strong and inspiring woman who has been through the disease. Elly Mayday is a Canadian born model who shares her story to encourage body positivity and confidence. Elly was kind enough to answer a few questions about her experiences and how they have shaped her as a person.
Not only do we adore your modeling work, but we find it extremely inspiring to hear your story – how did it all start? When and how did you get diagnosed with ovarian cancer?
Thanks so much for this interview. I was diagnosed at 25 with stage 3 Ovarian Cancer. At that time I was a year into lingerie modeling and also worked as a flight attendant. I began to understand just how insecure women were about their bodies, so when I was diagnosed I chose to continue modeling while I went through treatment. I had to quit my job flying in order to get the doctors attention— It was 3 years of appointments and scans, treating me as though I had cysts, but I knew there was something more. That's when I chose to quit work and "make a fuss" so to say. I was referred to a gyne doctor who, after a few appointments got me in for a biopsy and 5 days after the biopsy I was diagnosed.
What was your experience like during the treatment?
I took treatment on like a new job. Go to work (chemo and operations) come back, recover, fuel up by eating well, sleep, laugh, exercise and repeat until you're in the clear. I've had many operations now totaling over 22 hours, including one that lasted 10hrs and a full hysterectomy. I've been through menopause and lost the ability to have children— needless to say, at 25, I have faced a lot. I'm pretty shocked at all my body has been through but my mind and the people who love me (including my fans) have been an incredible source of strength. You have to believe you're going to get through the tough things life hands you.
Do you feel that women are taken as seriously as men when attempting to find a correct diagnosis?
I think women are used to putting themselves second, whereas most men won't. It's the culture we live in and it is unfortunate. I am trying to encourage strength in women and their voices for this reason. Women are strong as hell and we need to start acting like it. I've started a movement entitled #OneHellOvaWoman which shares our stories of strength and encourages that strength we all possess but may not unleash as often as we should.
While there’s plenty of information about breast cancer symptoms, there’s less awareness of the symptoms of ovarian cancer. What would you suggest women keep a lookout for?
I suggest knowing your family history, knowing if you have aunts or grandmothers who passed from this disease. The BRCA gene is something more women should be conscious of, it has a direct connection and in carrying this gene you will know it increases your chances of having breast or ovarian cancer. Please take a minute to educate yourself.
The signs and symptoms are so subtle. I experienced lower back pain, feeling tired and pain in my lower abdomen. I mean.. these are symptoms every woman can experience on a monthly basis... it's why it is so hard to detect. Educate yourself and if your doctor isn't getting on top of everything, go to someone else who will. I just want to be very clear about this one thing, No— a pap test does not detect it. There actually is NO early detection of Ovarian Cancer. We are so behind and it fuels me to keep going, keep getting more funding for research.
Body positivity is so important and so many people hide the scars, cellulite, and stretch-marks that make us human and powerful. What sort of response did you get from showing your own scars in images?
It's sad, isn't it? What a beautiful strong human being can be made to feel about their bodies. We learn to hate it. I've loved mine for a long time, so when I began modeling at a size 14 girl, it really got a lot of attention, mostly because I looked happy. I was excited to see how much I could push the boundaries by modeling with my scars and bald head. I think people loved it... I think it was refreshing to see someone take something on so publically and show that this is life and real life includes scars.
No one is guaranteed an easy ride so you've better start loving what you've got.
What advice would you share for women who are struggling to feel confident?
If I had lived a life feeling insecure about how I looked and lacking in self-esteem, I know that getting through cancer would have been even more difficult— I would be living what could have been my last months with regret. Regret that I didn't enjoy, celebrate, thrive in this body that was whole and complete exactly as it was.
Do you really want to look back and say I didn't live while I had the chance, because of a mark, some extra weight.. or because of others opinions? Take it from me, we're closer to the crypt than the cradle.. get living and loving the body you're so lucky to have.