Elly Mayday, a Canadian plus size model, was 25 when she developed a rare form of ovarian cancer that is typically found in postmenopausal women. Throughout her battle, she continued modeling lingerie. “In the lingerie industry, it’s not something you do,” she told ABC News when she spoke about modeling during chemotherapy. “It’s all about long hair and big breasts and arched backs. But it’s important to show what real women look like underneath their clothes. Most people have some issue they are dealing with.”
In the summer of 2013, Mayday began experiencing lower back pain. The discomfort was severe enough that she visited the emergency room four times. Doctors sent the plus size model on her way, but not before administering pain killers and reassuring her that she had nothing to worry about.
These doctors also suggested she exercise more and blamed her weight on the symptoms she was experiencing. “The doctors told me to workout my core,” Mayday told PEOPLE magazine in an interview. “I started to realize no one is going to help me unless I help myself.”
Mayday continued to monitor her symptoms and demand answers. After many hospital visits, CT scans revealed she had multiple cysts on her ovaries. Benign cysts occur in every woman who ovulates, but, in the rare case something is wrong, additional tests are completed. For Mayday, this was another instance where doctors failed to identify the problem promptly.
Following a biopsy—which Mayday had to practically beg for—a rare case of ovarian cancer was discovered and Mayday immediately started treatment. She underwent a hysterectomy, chemotherapy, a nine-hour surgery to remove multiple tumors, and recently a final surgery to eliminate a lingering cancerous mass.
At this time, Mayday does not refer to herself as cancer-free, but is taking everything a day at a time. She continued modeling photo shoots throughout her chemotherapy and attributed her strength to having three brothers. “I’ve always been the kind of person who does what she wants,” said Mayday. “I wanted to keep pursuing my dream, I didn’t want anything to get in the way, even cancer.”