Raising awareness about ovarian cancer

By Dale Johnson Posted: April 12, 2016 6:00 a.m.

  Elly Mayday spoke at a public event at the University of Regina about facing ovarian cancer when she was 25 years old.
Elly Mayday spoke at a public event at the University of Regina about facing ovarian cancer when she was 25 years old. Photo: External Relations.

The Faculty of Nursing, as part of its outreach with the wider community, recently brought in a guest speaker and survivors of ovarian cancer - and invited the public to attend.

“By providing the Ovarian Cancer Education Session there became an opportunity to increase awareness about the prevalence of the disease, and to encourage women to become advocates for their own health,” explains Cindy Kuster Orban, who teaches CNUR 401, which focuses on Population Health and Community Partnerships.

Ovarian cancer is often diagnosed at very late stages because there’s no screening test. Every day across Canada, five women die of ovarian cancer. In Saskatchewan one woman dies every week of ovarian cancer.

Kuster Orban says the idea for a public education session came from her nursing students after they assessed other students on campus and found that “young women are not taking a proactive role in their gynecological and sexual health. This fact was very concerning, thus it became our mission as a student group to create learning opportunities and education sessions.”

The faculty invited Elly Mayday to come and tell her story. She grew up near Aylesbury, about 90 kilometres northwest of Regina, graduated from Luther College High School, and then began modelling in Vancouver. In the summer of 2013, at the age of 25, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Mayday underwent two surgeries, lost her hair to chemotherapy – and continued to do modelling shoots throughout her treatments. She continues to model and now is based in New York City.

“Elly Mayday is an idol to Ovarian Cancer Survivors. As the spokesperson for the Ovarian Cancer Society for the Lady Balls Campaign initiative, she provides a voice for the disease and provides hope. Every cancer survivor who attended the education session knew that they were not alone in their journey and they were appreciated for their strength and resilience,” Kuster Orban says.
Mayday says “I made it really public because I felt there was a big gap in the system and not enough people were talking about this.”

Kuster Orban is glad that Mayday was able to share her story at the University of Regina. She says she and the students are thrilled at the incredible turnout to the event, because it provided a public platform.
“The Ovarian Cancer Survivor group had a voice and were not alone in their cancer journey. If one woman who attended the education session left the lecture with more knowledge about her health, the need for advocacy, and empowerment, then the event was successful. Elly Mayday is such an inspiration for all women, and working with her has been such a delight.”  

A fundraiser for ovarian cancer research in Saskatchewan will be held on May 10 at the Conexus Arts Centre, and for details visit ladyballsshowandtell.com.

Elly Mayday’s story and her visit to the University of Regina was covered by The National on CBC and the Leader-Post.