Giving Back As A Cancer Survivor
- Sofia Vergara, 50, beat cancer in 2000. Signs of thyroid cancer include a swelling or lump in the neck. There are tests to examine the thyroid and neck in order to diagnose thyroid cancer, along with blood tests. Thyroid nodules, unusual growths in the thyroid gland, are common but usually are not cancer.
- Now, Vergara is working to raise awareness and funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
- Treatment advances in recent decades have led to 85 percent of children with cancer now surviving five years or more, according to the American Cancer Society. This is up from 58 percent from the mid-1970s, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.
- The survival rate for children with cancer has improved over the past few decades, but pediatric cancer is still an incredibly hard thing for a child and his or her family to go through. In a previous interview with SurvivorNet, one caregiver/mother of a cancer survivor found therapy to be a great way to process everything happening to her family.
In honor of World Cancer Day, a worldwide initiative led by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) and held annually on February 4, Vergara took to social media to inspire others to support those battling childhood cancer.Read More
“I have also served as a spokesperson for other marketing charitable campaigns which support St. Jude, including the ‘Meatballs 4 Niños,’ where Buca di Beppo donated $1 to St. Jude for every lunch and dinner meatball meal purchased. And I’ve also hosted events that benefit the hospital such as the 25th annual LA Art show and its Opening Night Premiere Gala in 2020.”
Vergara, a mom of one to 31-year-old Manolo Gonzalez Vergara, continued, “It’s a great privilege to lend my voice to motivate people to support St. Jude and its mission. I’ve met so many wonderful children and their families. I have witnessed how strong and resilient they are, and I have seen their fight with cancer, and it really gives me hope.”
“Every child deserves the chance to live their best life and celebrate every moment,” Vergara concluded. “When you support St. Jude, you help give kids with cancer around the world that chance. Together, we can save more lives.”
Sophia Vergara’s Cancer Journey
Vergara, who married actor Joe Manganiello, 46, in 2015, found a lump in her neck by chance back in 2000.
Her family has a history of thyroid cancer, which affects how your body uses blood sugar, so she had taken her son to get checked out early for diabetes.
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“While we were there, the doctor wanted to check me, too, and he found a lump in my neck,” Vergara said in an interview with Health.
Vergara had no symptoms at the time and questioned having to undergo surgery but she went through with it—followed by iodine radiation treatment, and was glad she did. “When you go through something like this, it’s hard, but you learn a lot from it,” she said. “Your priorities change. You don’t sweat the small stuff. And it had a good ending.”
She had to take a pill every day. “It controls your body’s metabolism and gives you the levels that you need. An unregulated thyroid can lead to problems with your weight, hair loss, and other things, so they give me a blood test every three months to see where my level is,” she said.
“Actually, I feel very lucky. In a lot of women, the cancer isn’t found until around menopause — and by then its too late.”
The Latin bombshell, who has always had a charitable side to her, helped build a cancer center in her hometown of Barranquilla.
“I visited the cancer ward of a hospital in Colombia, and parents were just sitting on the floor while their kids were being treated,” she said.
“When you’re a mother and your kid is sick, you feel it yourself,” the mom-of-one added, noting that she wanted to set up a “comfortable place for parents.”
What Is Thyroid Cancer?
According to the National Cancer Institute, “Thyroid cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the thyroid gland,” which is a butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the neck.
Signs of thyroid cancer include a swelling or lump in the neck. There are tests to examine the thyroid and neck in order to diagnose thyroid cancer, along with blood tests. Thyroid nodules, unusual growths in the thyroid gland, are common but usually are not cancer.
Feeling for lumps in your neck (or breasts, or anywhere else in your body) is always a good idea, along with getting routine checkups at the doctor’s office.
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Understanding Childhood Cancer
Treatment advances in recent decades have led to 85 percent of children with cancer now surviving five years or more, according to the American Cancer Society. This is up from 58 percent from the mid-1970s.
But according to the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation, more than 95 percent of childhood cancer survivors have significant health-related issues because of the current treatment options, and only 4 percent of the billions of dollars spent each year on cancer research and treatments are directed towards treating childhood cancer in the United States. Since 1980, fewer than 10 drugs have been developed for use in children with cancer while hundreds of drugs have been created exclusively for adults.
Dr. Elizabeth Raetz, director of pediatric hematology and oncology at NYU Langone’s Perlmutter Cancer Center, reminded us in a previous interview that there is still reason for hope.
“There are also targeted treatments and different immunotherapies that have been studied in adults and have now moved into clinical trials for children and there has been a great deal of excitement in the community about that,” Dr. Raetz told SurvivorNet.
Caring for a Child with Cancer
Navigating a child’s cancer diagnosis can be incredibly tricky – something Jayne Wexler knows all too well.
She had to fill the roles of parent and cancer caregiver when her son, Justice, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Thankfully, he has since recovered.
In a previous interview with SurvivorNet, Wexler explained how she managed to be a mother and a caregiver all at once.
“I Try To Stay Strong, But Sometimes You Need To Cry”: Playing The Role of Cancer Caregiver and Mom
“Being a caregiver is a huge job,” Wexler said. “Fortunately, my husband and family were very supportive … it’s really hard to see your child go through this. If it could be me, I would take it in a second. You just go on auto-pilot and you just do what you have to do.”
But that doesn’t mean it was always easy. Wexler admitted that as a parent caring for a child with the disease, you don’t have a lot of time to sit down and deal with your own emotions.
“You don’t have that much time for yourself,” Wexler said. “I try to stay strong, but then sometimes you just want to go and cry, and you need to cry… it’s good to cry.”
RELATED: The Impact of a Childhood Cancer Diagnosis on the Whole Family Jayne Wexler Shares Her Story
The survival rate for children with cancer has improved over the past few decades, but pediatric cancer is still an incredibly hard thing for a family to go through. In her own caregiving experience, Wexler found therapy to be a great way to process everything happening to her family. Regardless of whether it’s therapy or participating in your favorite activities or something entirely different, it’s important to find ways to also take care of yourself as you’re taking care of your child.
Contributing: SurvivorNet Staff
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