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.”