Body-positive model Elly Mayday dies at 30 from ovarian cancer

Paulina Cachero


After six years of encouraging women to embrace and love their bodies, model Ashley Luther, better known as Elly Mayday, died on Friday, March 1, from ovarian cancer. She was 30.

Luther was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer in 2013. Around the same time, she was offered two modeling contracts, and instead of shying away from the spotlight, she welcomed it. “I figured that maybe I could help someone going through something similar while continuing on with my own dreams,” the Saskatchewan, Canada, native told the Regina Leader-Post. “I mean, I was going through it either way; why not make it as positive as possible?”

Elly Mayday at the Daily Front Row’s Fashion Media Awards after-party in September 2017 in New York City. (Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images)
Elly Mayday at the Daily Front Row’s Fashion Media Awards after-party in September 2017 in New York City. (Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images)

After her diagnosis, the model quit her job as a flight attendant and began to pose proudly for photos, baring the cancer surgery scars on her abdomen for magazines and her personal social media pages. Sharing both her triumphant and difficult moments, she gained a huge following for her raw, honest portrayal of her battle with the illness, publicly documenting what cancer looks and feels like. When Mayday started posting about her ovarian cancer in 2013, she had 30,000 followers on Facebook. Her official fan page page now has nearly 500,000.

When she lost her hair due to chemotherapy in August 2018 following a relapse the year before, she took to her social media “to show women they can beautiful without hair.”

Our beauty comes out if we accept the changes we must face and allow ourselves to just embrace our differences,” she wrote. “My beauty doesn’t come from my hair, no, my beauty comes from within.

View this post on Instagram

* sorry had to delete and repost* Let’s chat about the hair for a moment, shall we? I actually wasn’t suppose to lose my hair from the type of chemo I was given. There was a slight chance but it was a reassuring thing when told what mixture I’d be on. After 2 weeks I started to notice it come out in my brush. I thought, ah its cause I’m sitting in one spot, I’m not brushing it much, yada yada… Then it really wouldn’t stop. It was annoying, I was tying it up and it would come out with the tie. So I just got rid of it. I’m not upset. I am excited to see how it comes back. I’m also happy to have this second opportunity to show women they can beautiful without hair. All that beauty we hold in our heart comes out through in our eyes, our smiles, the glow of our skin and the way we speak. Our beauty comes out if we accept the changes we must face and allow ourselves to just embrace our differences. My beauty doesn’t come from my hair, no, my beauty comes from within. I’m excited to have another opportunity to show women that bald is beautiful. It’s something I’ve learned and my experience is what I share with all of you. That’s my gift. So bring on the photo shoots, the wigs, the fun. I’m gonna be a cute baldy once again 😍 I’m Particularly excited for a nice curly mullet that I’ll grow. Ahahah #bald #shorthair #buzzcut #buzzed #chemo #baldgirl #shorthair #chemotherapy #ellymayday #nohairdontcare #nohair #buzz #hairloss #baldgirl #baldgirlsrock

A post shared by Elly Mayday (@elly.mayday) on Aug 6, 2018 at 10:05am PDT

Mayday’s family announced her death on Mayday’s social media pages, thanking her followers for their “constant support and love.”

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 family wrote in a moving post. “You all inspired Ashley and we hope she did the same for you.

Since the news, there has been an outpouring of emotional posts online praising Elly Mayday for her bravery.

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Elly, although I never met her, was so helpful to me as my wife was diagnosed with stage 4 Ovarian Cancer in 2017. She was one of the first people who connected to me and my wife. She gave us so much strength,” wrote one Facebook user. “Elly, you will forever be in our thoughts and prayers. To the Mayday family, you raised one incredible person … full of inspiration and strength.

Fellow ovarian cancer survivors also shared what an inspiration she’d been for them. “Elly impacted my life more than she will ever know, your beautiful girl saved my life,” wrote someone else on Facebook who said she had to get four evaluations before she was diagnosed. “Instead of giving up, I’m now 3 yrs in remission and owe that to you Elly.

Mayday believed she had beat cancer after undergoing multiple surgeries and chemotherapy. However, doctors confirmed her cancer returned in 2017.

“The signs and symptoms came on slower and weren’t as harsh,” Luther said about why her initial symptoms of lower-back and stomach pain and ongoing fatigue were missed when she first started going to physicians. She was initially told to lose weight and tone.

According to the American Cancer Society, the risk of a woman developing cancer in her ovaries during her lifetime is about 1 in 78. However, the illness can be difficult to detect and diagnose because the symptoms associated with ovarian cancer are similar to far less serious problems like bloating and indigestion.

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