You wouldn’t know, watching actress Sofia Vergara strut around the screen in Modern Family, that this vivacious actress is living with hypothyroidism.
Every night before she goes to bed, the multi-award nominated actress places a glass of water and a small lilac pill on her nightstand. Every morning, as soon as she opens her eyes, the first thing she does is swallow the pill. She showers and, half an hour later, she has her coffee and breakfast: “That’s my routine; exciting, right?”
Sofia’s journey began when she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer when she was 28 years old, a rare condition that affects around 1% of the population. According to a recent interview on Huffingtonpost.com, it was by chance that her condition was discovered in 2000. She had taken her son, Manolo, to a doctor’s appointment, and while there, the doctor convinced her to have a check-up as well. By simply feeling her throat, he was able to ascertain that her thyroid was abnormal.
A biopsy was carried out and the results were not favourable. “I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and had to have my thyroid removed. As a result, I have a hypothyroid condition and need to take medicine to treat it.” She adds that despite what she has experienced, everything happens for a reason.
“My health issues changed my way of thinking; I’ve been more careful and have made different choices because of all this.” One of these choices was to help to raise awareness of hypothyroidism. She is the spokeswoman for a new campaign called “Follow the Script” (www.followthescriptcampaign.com), which aims to educate those living with hypothyroidism about the importance of being consistent with the treatment your doctor prescribes. Made possible by AbbVie, a pharmaceutical research and development company based in the USA, the campaign also offers interactive polls, symptom and treatment information, helpful “scripts” for speaking with your doctor and pharmacist, as well as stories and videos from other individuals with hypothyroidism.
As Sofia says: “In my career, I’m known to ad lib and go off-script – but not when it comes to my health. I make sure to ‘Follow the Script’, so I get exactly what my doctor prescribed. This is so important to me, because you can’t enjoy what you have without your health.” She believes that her health challenges have made her stronger and wiser, and have given her the courage to achieve whatever she sets out to do. Sofia adds: “You know, with hypothyroidism, I’m careful. I get my blood levels checked every three to six months, and see my doctor when I need to.” She explains that it is vital that you take control of your own health; you need to get your blood tested and work with a doctor who is right for you, as this is a lifelong relationship. “We are all important. We have success and challenges, riches and wealth and spirit, and everything else life offers. But you can’t enjoy what you have without your health.”
YOUR THYROID AND YOU
Disorders of the thyroid are considered some of the most common health conditions in the world, affecting around 1,6 billion people worldwide. International Thyroid Week, held in May, an initiative of Merck Serono in association with Thyroid Federation International, aims to raise awareness of the importance of having your thyroid checked regularly. The concern is that thyroid problems are easily confused with other conditions, which can delay proper diagnosis and treatment. “International Thyroid Week brings to light the importance of understanding the common signs and symptoms of thyroid dysfunction. Beyond this, there is also the aim of educating people about the critical role the thyroid gland plays in our wellbeing,” explains Francois Smuts, Merck’s medical affairs manager for South East Africa. The thyroid is an endocrine gland found in your neck, just below the Adam’s apple. It is essential for wellbeing, as this gland produces hormones to allow for the healthy working of the heart; it controls how quickly your body uses energy, and makes proteins and controls the body’s sensitivity to other hormones. Considered one of the most important glands in your body, the thyroid assists with the regulation of body temperature; regulation of body weight; glucose and lipid metabolism; growth and development; bone metabolism; regulation of the cardiovascular system; muscle function; brain function; nervous -system function; fertility and pregnancy; and general wellbeing of your psyche.
These include hyperthyroidism, which is abnormally high thyroid activity, and hypothyroidism, which is abnormally low activity.
Hyperthyroidism signs and symptoms: Protruding eyes, very fast heart rate, trembling hands, hair loss, frequent bowel movements, weight loss, excessive sweating, muscle weakness, unusual sensitivity to heat, increased appetite, thin and very smooth skin, and abnormal menstrual periods.
Hypothyroidism signs and symptoms: Fatigue, drowsiness, weakness, not being able to tolerate the cold, weight gain or increased difficulty in losing weight, depression, constipation, thin and brittle hair, and dry skin. If left untreated, thyroid dysfunction can have potentially life-threatening complications, and has been associated with high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels, which, in turn, can increase the risk of heart disease. Women who have gone through menopause are also at an increased risk of osteoporosis or fractures. If you suspect that you, or a member of your family, have a thyroid disorder, it is vital that you speak to your healthcare provider. Your doctor can check your symptoms, recommend the appropriate tests and prescribe the required treatment, to ensure that you live a healthier and more productive life.
Sofía Margarita Vergara is a Colombian actress, comedian, television hostess, and model. Vergara was widely known for co-hosting two television shows for Spanish-language television network Univisión in the late 1990s. Her first notable acting job in English was in the 2003 film Chasing Papi. Subsequently, she appeared in other films, including Four Brothers (2005) and two Tyler Perry films – Meet the Browns (2008) and Madea Goes to Jail (2009), receiving an ALMA Award nomination for the latter. Vergara’s success on television has earned her roles in recent films The Smurfs (2011), New Year’s Eve (2011), Happy Feet Two (2011), The Three Stooges (2012), Escape From Planet Earth (2013), and Machete Kills (2013). In 2012 and 2013, she was the top-earning actress on US television. Vergara stars on the ABC series Modern Family as Gloria Delgado-Pritchett, for which she has been nominated for four Golden Globe Awards, four Primetime Emmy Awards, and seven Screen Actors Guild Awards. In 2014, she was ranked as the 32nd most powerful woman in the world by Forbes.
– By Kim Bell