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Antoinette Lattouf: A Viewer Saw Something Wrong With My Throat And Probably Saved My Career

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, and sometimes even berating me for poking fun at their favourite panelist.

But last Friday's message was particularly peculiar.

My editor called me over to her desk saying we'd just received a "strange" message about you to our Facebook account.

"Has Antoinette Lattouf had her thyroid checked? I am not being smart or trolling just concerned with what I saw on TV today?"

Viewer Wendy McCoy felt compelled to reach out and express her concern after seeing this segment.

Demonstrating the importance of fact-checking and sussing out reliable sources, my editor asked if she was a doctor.

"No medical but reminded me of my friends. On her left side of neck," Wendy McCoy from Werribee Victoria wrote.

"I felt concerned and thought I should say something."

I was taken aback, and must admit at first I scoffed at the message. Then I watched the clip back (you can do the same at the top of this article).  

I was left shocked. It looked like I had an Adam's Apple. Something was definitely protruding from my neck.

Given I have a family history of thyroid cancer and other relos with a range of thyroid-related illnesses, I went and saw my G.P.

Three blood tests, an ultrasound and a CT scan later, it turns out Wendy was the real McCoy and I have a large cyst that needs surgery as well as an autoimmune disease.

I spoke to Wendy after my diagnosis and she said she was almost not going to saying anything, "because I didn't want to seem to be interfering or meddling."

"But then I thought bugger it, because it stood out like a dog's hind leg," she told me.

I've had a decade long television career, and it took one audience member's concern to lead me to address a thyroid illness that's been getting worse since childhood (unbeknown to me.

Luckily my cyst is benign, but it lives on my thyroglossal duct (just above the voice box) and it's likely to start to interfere with my ability to breathe, speak and swallow. This condition most commonly begins when you're a child, and as the cyst grows and protrudes, it starts to put pressure on other vital structures in the neck.

Thyroid disease can be broadly categorised as thyroid dysfunction (hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism) and structural disease (goitre, nodules and cancer). Women are more at risk, and if untreated or misdiagnosed, thyroid illnesses can impact mental health, weight, hair and nails, fatigue, voice, muscle strength, bone health, heart rate and in some cases result in death.

And it turns out I'm not the only C-grade television celebrity that has been diagnosed by a viewer.

In 2009, Network 10 reality television personality Bree Amer (formerly Big Brother, but co-hosting Friday Night Live at the time) was contacted by a viewer who also saw something worrying on her neck.

Bree Amer on Friday Night Live.

In her case, the viewer was a doctor who noticed a lump that turned out to be thyroid cancer. She subsequently had two operations to remove it.

"Now, as cliched as it sounds, the whole experience has just made me want to campaign for further awareness and to urge women to be more in touch with their bodies," Amer said at the time.

There's no etiquette guide as to how to broach a medical concern with a loved one let alone a stranger. 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).

It's that good ole, 'if you see something, say something' message.  It's not about playing a pseduo-surgeon, or becoming the human face of Dr Google -- all you need to do is encourage the person to seek medical advice.

Worst case they'll call you a rando, best case you'll save someone's life.

Losing in this music quiz, but winning at being a bad sport and giving Joe Hildebrand the evil eye.

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.

Contact the author alattouf@networkten.com.au