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Surviving Thyroid Cancer: Sofia Vergara's Story

How this actress and mom faced a health scare early in her career.
By
WebMD Magazine - Feature

Is Sofia Vergara the world's funniest sexy woman, or the world's sexiest funny woman?

Whichever way you put it, there's been a lot more laughter in American living rooms since the Colombian-born Vergara, 41, made the jump from hosting variety shows on the Spanish-language network Univision to starring as Gloria Delgado-Pritchett in ABC's Emmy-dominating comedy Modern Family.

She's now the face of CoverGirl cosmetics, the highest-earning woman on television, and recently one of the latest celebs to be rebuilt in wax at Madame Tussauds (in both New York City and Las Vegas). And she tops virtually every public and private list of "sexiest woman ever!" But Vergara hasn't always led such a charmed life.

Health Scare

After falling into an early marriage at age 18 and divorcing 2 years later, Vergara moved to Miami with her young son, Manolo, to pursue a job in TV hosting. She was 28 when a routine doctor's checkup found something unexpected. "He felt a lump in my neck," she recalls.

The next few weeks were a whirlwind of tests that confirmed her doctor's suspicions: Vergara had thyroid cancer. "It was very traumatic," she says. "I was young. I had a young son. But I tried not to panic. I decided to take charge and inform myself. Of course, I couldn't Google thyroid cancer from the comfort of my house back then, so I went to bookstores and found out everything I could about it."

She learned she'd have to undergo surgery to remove her thyroid gland, the small butterfly-shaped organ at the base of the neck that makes a hormone that helps control many of the body's functions, including temperature, heart rate, how calories and vitamins are used, and more. After that, Vergara spent several days in the hospital, in isolation, while she received treatment with radioactive iodine that would wipe out any remaining cancer cells. "Not even the nurses could come close," she recalls. "They practically throw you your food through a hole in the door," she adds, exaggerating a bit.

Still, she says, "I was lucky that's all I needed. That kind of cancer is very quiet, and usually you only realize you have it after it's already spread and it's much harder to treat."

'Follow the Script'

Nearly 13 years later, Vergara remains cancer-free, but she has a daily reminder in the form of a small lavender pill she takes each morning to make up for the loss of her thyroid.

"I have to take it without any food, and then I sit there counting the minutes for half an hour until I can have my coffee!" she laughs. "I get my blood levels checked every 3 to 6 months to make sure my thyroid levels are good. And of course after cancer, every time I cough or feel something I'm a little paranoid. But I want people to know you can live a normal life with hypothyroidism."

That's why she's currently the face of "Follow the Script," a campaign designed to help people with hypothyroidism work with their doctor to manage their thyroid hormone levels, find the right dose of medication, keep track of symptoms, and lead a healthy lifestyle.

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