CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - Breast cancer is not just a physical fight, but a mental one too.
It can mean stripping away parts of what helps identify you as a woman.
That was the case for Beth Brotherton.
In October 2010, she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. There were two tumors in her breast and the cancer was spreading to her lymph nodes.
Even though she had a family history of cancer, Brotherton didn't expect to be diagnosed at the age of 34.
"I exercised. I wasn't overweight. I don't smoke, didn't drink. So I felt like I was doing my due diligence," Brotherton said.
The tough reality set in when Brotherton was told she would need a double mastectomy.
"I don't think it hits home until you have it done and then you actually wake up from surgery and see your chest," Brotherton said. "It's not flat, it's actually concave."
The surgery took some getting used to.
"It's what makes you a woman," Brotherton said. "As a little kid, you know when you are a teenager you like hope them, and then I had a child and nursed her for an entire year."
However, the diagnosis took a turn for the worse when Brotherton was told she wouldn't be able to have any more children.
Her cancer was estrogen based and chemotherapy put her in early menopause. That is why doctors suggested she have a hysterectomy.
"It just kind of took one more thing from me," Brotherton said.
Five years later, Brotherton is a survivor. This year she turns forty, a celebration of life.
"40 is not about black balloons for me," Brotherton said. "It's all happy because there was a time when I thought I wasn't going to make it."
Brotherton now encourages all women, young and old, to be advocate for their own health.
"At the end of the day you have to know your body and if something changes you have to speak up," Brotherton said.