When A Viewer Looked Closely At This TV Presenter’s Neck, She Knew She Had To Speak Up

Reporter Antoinette Lattouf has been a mainstay of Australian television for over a decade. But during one particular news broadcast, something about the journalist’s appearance set off alarm bells – so much so that it prompted a viewer to send in a concerned message. And incredibly, it saved the TV star’s life.

Lattouf’s path to journalism began when she studied for a degree in Communications at the University of Technology Sydney. Following that, in 2004 she landed a reporter position at SBS Television’s panel show Insight. And just over a year later, she was also appointed as a producer of SBS News.

In 2007 Lattouf moved to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation where she initially served as a researcher for Media Watch. She later worked as a presenter on radio station Triple J and a producer and journalist on ABC News24. However, it wasn’t long before the journalist once again moved elsewhere.

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This time around, Lattouf took her considerable talents to Network Ten. After serving as a reporter on Ten Eyewitness News, she regularly appeared as a guest panelist on Studio10. During this period, the TV star also showcased her writing skills, penning numerous fascinating features for the now-defunct Australian news site The Hoopla.

Lattouf continued to diversify throughout her career. In 2015, she was appointed a lecturer of journalism at Macleay College. Two years later, she co-founded Media Diversity Australia, a non-profit organization designed to support and promote culturally diverse industry professionals. She was also named as an ambassador for the pre and post-natal natal well-being charity, Gidget Foundation Australia.

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The journalist became inspired to work with the Gidget Foundation following her very own battles with post-natal depression. In fact, Lattouf has penned several pieces about her experiences over the years. One particular article also explored the relationship she had with her refugee mother and the inter-generational and intercultural problems they had to cope with.

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Of course, Lattouf also continued to pursue her day job. In 2016 she moved back to ABC where she worked as a senior reporter. Two years later, she revisited another old stomping ground, taking on the role of senior journalist at Network Ten. And it was the journalist’s 2019 stint on the channel’s Studio10 show where she found herself in the headlines on two occasions.

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The second set of headlines appeared in December that year when fellow panelist Kerri-Anne Kennerley made what appeared to be a disparaging remark about her co-host. In this particular episode, Lattouf sported a white playsuit that some would describe as skimpy. Sitting next to her, Kennerley asked, “Did you forget your pants today?”

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Lattouf initially appeared to take the rather offhand comment in good humor. However, the rest of the panelists were left open-mouthed by Kennerley’s tactless and cutting remark. Co-host Angela Bishop then came to her colleague’s defense, arguing that the TV journalist “looks unbelievable.” But the drama certainly didn’t end there.

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Indeed, referring to an earlier chat about the word in pop culture, Kennerley then claimed that Lattouf might be “thirsty,” which in the previous context meant desperate. As a result, many viewers took to Twitter to voice their displeasure at this apparent case of slut-shaming. “[Lattouf] deserves an apology,” wrote one particularly disgruntled fan, adding that Kennerley needed to “be put in the bin where she belongs.”

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Thankfully, the furore soon blew over. According to a spokesperson for Network Ten, Kennerley and Lattouf had a “respectful” chat over the phone where they sorted things out. The former is even said to have said sorry for her remarks on the Studio10 episode, an apology which the latter accepted.

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This incident may have seemed like a storm in a teacup in the grand scheme of things. However, just a month earlier, Lattouf had unwittingly found herself at the center of another news story which was far more important. In fact, it could even be described as life or death.

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Indeed, after Lattouf had signed off from her regular Friday segment on Studio10, her editor received a message from a particularly eagle-eyed viewer. But this wasn’t a complaint. Instead, it was a piece of invaluable advice that may well have saved the journalist’s life.

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The message began, “Has Antoinette Lattouf had her thyroid checked?” The viewer in question, Wendy McCoy, went on to clarify that she was speaking out of genuine worry and not sheer rudeness. She continued, “I am not being smart or trolling, just concerned with what I saw on TV today.”

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McCoy also added that although she didn’t have a medical background herself, she did have some experience of the condition. The lump on Lattouf’s neck reminded the Studio10 viewer of a pal who discovered they had a cyst. The fan of the show, who resides in the Victoria suburb of Werribee, concluded, “I felt concerned and thought I should say something.”

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Lattouf took to news site 10 daily to write about the correspondence that her editor had passed on. She began, “Being inundated with messages after a television appearance is nothing new for me. However, it’s usually my mother telling me my eyeliner is too thick, or a viewer who had an issue with my stance on an issue.”

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The journalist also revealed that she’s often chastised by viewers whenever she pokes fun at fellow panel members. “But last Friday’s message was particularly peculiar,” Lattouf continued. “My editor called me over to her desk saying we’d ‘just received a strange message about you to our Facebook account.’”

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Clearly, the message had an effect. A slightly dubious Lattouf then decided to review the particular footage McCoy had made reference to. In the article she penned for 10 daily, the journalist admitted, “I was taken aback and must admit, at first, I scoffed at the message. Then I watched the clip back.”

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In the segment, Lattouf was talking about the controversial Virgin Mary sculptures created by Kyle Montgomery. The Australian artist had been in the news after being snapped up by designer fashion label Marc Jacobs. However, various religious groups argued that these particular works were both “unacceptable and disrespectful.”

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And Lattouf soon realized why her appearance had attracted McCoy’s attention more than the subject that the panel was discussing on the show. She freely admitted in her 10 daily piece, “I was left shocked. It looked like I had an Adam’s Apple. Something was definitely protruding from my neck.”

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With thyroid cancer in Lattouf’s family history, the concerned journalist decided to go and see her doctor. She subsequently underwent an ultrasound, no fewer than three blood tests and a CT scan. The TV star was then given an official diagnosis. And it was one which proved that McCoy’s advice was invaluable.

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The test results showed that Lattouf had a large cyst above the voice box which required her to undergo surgery. The growth wasn’t cancerous, thankfully, but still needed to be treated before it caused any serious damage. In addition, medics found that the journalist also had a previously undiagnosed autoimmune disease.

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The type of lump that Lattouf was diagnosed with is known as a thyroglossal duct cyst. It occurs when the thyroid, a large hormone-producing gland in the neck, leaves a surplus of cells behind during the highly important womb development stage. And as the journalist later discovered, they can turn into life-threatening cysts.

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Some of these cysts can be so tiny they don’t actually cause any noticeable symptoms. However, larger ones can have a significant impact on a person’s health and well-being. They can, in fact, interfere with both swallowing and breathing. As a result, the lumps will often require surgery to be removed.

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The thyroglossal duct cyst is far more common in women than it is men. It can also affect bone health, muscle strength and heart rate, and has even proven to be fatal in some cases. Lattouf revealed that her particular cyst had most likely started developing from a young age.

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Lattouf first took to Instagram to show McCoy her gratitude for the warning about a possible health condition. She wrote, “Thank you for caring, lovely Wendy!” But the journalist then contacted the viewer in person once she had been officially diagnosed. And she discovered that the Studio 10 fan had been debating whether to post her original message at all.

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“I spoke to Wendy after my diagnosis and she said she was almost not going to say anything,” Lattouf revealed in her 10 daily post. McCoy was initially reticent because she “didn’t want to seem to be interfering or meddling.” However, the viewer went on, “Then I thought, bugger it, because it stood out like a dog’s hind leg.”

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Lattouf then referred to another famous Australian face whose life was also potentially saved by a TV viewer. In 2009, Bree Amer, the Friday Night Live co-host, also appeared on camera with a lump in her neck. She then had it checked it out after a viewer got in touch to inform the presenter that it could be dangerous.

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And just as McCoy was with Lattouf, this viewer was also right on the money. Indeed, Amer was later diagnosed with thyroid cancer after seeing a doctor about the lump. Following two different operations to remove the cyst, thankfully, the TV star, who shot to fame on Big Brother, made a full recovery.

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In Lattouf’s 10 daily piece, she quoted Amer as saying at the time that she wants others to learn from her own health scare. She revealed, “Now, as cliched as it sounds, the whole experience has just made me want to campaign for further awareness.” The reality star also wanted to “urge women to be more in touch with their bodies.”

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“There’s no etiquette guide as to how to broach a medical concern with a loved one, let alone a stranger,” Lattouf wrote for 10 daily. The journalist then paid another compliment to the viewer who potentially helped save her life. She added, “However, I think we would all benefit if we were more like Wendy and took on her ‘bugger it’ approach (and then politely share your concern).”

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Lattouf then further encouraged readers to act on their instincts. She continued, “It’s that good ole, ‘if you see something, say something’ message. It’s not about playing a pseudo-surgeon, or becoming the human face of Dr Google. All you need to do is encourage the person to seek medical advice.”

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“Worst case, they’ll call you a rando; best case, you’ll save someone’s life,” Lattouf claimed to her readers. She added, “So to Wendy, I say, thank you for caring enough to reach out to me, a complete stranger, and urging me to see a doctor. Your random act of kindness probably saved my career.”

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Lattouf and Amer, however, aren’t the only celebs to have had similar experiences. In 2013, HGTV viewer Ryan Read was bingeing the first season of Flip or Flop when she noticed something unusual about the presenter’s neck. The registered nurse then contacted the show’s producers to inform them that Tarek El Moussa’s health could be at risk. After visiting a doctor to check a lump in his throat, the host was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

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In a 2013 episode of talk show The Doctors, Read revealed why she felt compelled to get in touch with the producers. She said, “You get that gut feeling, you know? Half-way through an episode during the marathon I saw it and stopped the TV, rewound it and watched it again. I watched a few more episodes and I’m like, ‘There’s definitely something there. I need to get the message to him.’”

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El Moussa had previously been told that the lump was benign and therefore harmless. But following his cancer diagnosis, he underwent surgery to remove the thyroid. Sadly, this operation also revealed that the cancer had reached the host’s lymph nodes. As a result, he needed further treatment, this time with radioactive iodine.

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The presenter later revealed to ET Online how grateful he was to Read for contacting producers. He said, “If it wasn’t for TV and [Read] noticing this huge lump on my neck, I would still be moving forward with my life, with cancer in my body and probably never done anything about it.” El Moussa and his wife eventually met Read to thank her in person.

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Then there was the case involving former Liverpool footballer Mark Lawrenson. While watching preview show Football Focus on the BBC, Dr. Alan Brennan noticed that the pundit had a dark blemish on his face. The viewer then emailed the series’ producers to advise that Lawrenson should get it checked out.

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Lawrenson later revealed that he’d previously noticed the blemish. However, he believed it was due to his one-time habit of spending time in the sunshine without any protective cream. Thankfully, the ex-sportsman got the all clear from his doctor after taking Brennan’s advice. But he was still grateful for the viewer’s concern.

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In fact, like El Moussa, Lawrenson also ended up meeting the viewer who encouraged him to seek medical advice. And as the pair shared the screen on BBC Breakfast, the former footballer admitted, “Like a typical 60-year-old bloke, I had been putting it off rather than sorting it out. Your man gave me the kick up the backside to get it sorted.”

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