A local model with a rare form of cancer is sharing her story in hopes of changing the way the fashion industry thinks about beauty.

Elly Mayday is only 25 years old, but has already endured months of chemotherapy and a hysterectomy to battle a type of ovarian cancer usually only seen in post-menopausal women.

“I was told it was a cyst so many times, and I just knew deep down in my heart that there was something else wrong,” Mayday says.

But instead of doing what many might – hanging up her hat and retiring from the world of fashion and beauty – Mayday has kept on modelling, proudly showing off her surgery scars and bald head in a sports bra campaign with Forever Yours Lingerie in Langley.

“It was kind of a point of realization, either, ‘Do I stop now, or do I keep on going and be the person that I was raised to be and the person that I know I am?’” she says.

The reaction to her work has been outstandingly positive – Mayday has tens of thousands of fans on Facebook and receives messages from other women with cancer who have been inspired by her confidence.

“The reaction has been amazing. People love it. People really want to see real people,” says Sonya Perkins, who owns Forever Yours Lingerie.

“I hope people are inspired to go outside with their scars and to go outside without their hair on,” Mayday says.

Perkins says when Mayday first told her about the cancer diagnosis, it was a no-brainer to have her continue to represent the store in its ad campaigns.

“There’s something about her face and body, and the way she moves exudes positivity and lightness about her,” she says.

The young woman is dubbed a “plus-size” model by industry standards – but it’s not a label she agrees with.

“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 they need to live their life,” Mayday says. “I don’t say ‘plus-size’ because I’m not a plus-size woman. I’m normal size.”

Mayday’s story is being documented by a film crew and she has another major surgery scheduled next week. After that, she plans on going to New York – and bringing her message with her.

“Not everyone in the industry is going to want to work with a person that’s scarred, that has a scarred stomach,” she says. “But I have a good story, and I’m trying to start something.”

With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Maria Weisgarber