Charlotte Reporter Experiences Sickness And Loss, But Also Hope And Joy
There are two people WSOC-TV reporter Allison Latos credits with saving her life. The first is a viewer who left a voicemail for the reporter back in January. The viewer noticed something on Latos' neck and wanted to make sure the reporter knew about it.
"She told me that Jesus put it on her heart to reach out to me and that she had never done anything like that before in her life," Latos said. "She probably saved my life."
Latos would find out months later she had thyroid cancer. But before that, she would go through the most painful experience of her life.
At the time Latos received the alarming voicemail, she was pregnant with her second child, a girl. She mentioned the voicemail to her obstetrician and had labwork done, but everything came back normal. So she chalked it up to somehow being pregnancy related.
"Fast forward through everything that’s happened in the past few months with our lives, my anxiety about things now is sort of at a 10," Latos said. "I think I worry a lot more about things that probably won’t happen to most people because we’ve been on the receiving end of the short statistics."
Basically, anything that could go wrong, seemed to go wrong.
In April, Latos and her husband Josh found out something was wrong with their baby. She had inoperable and terminal issues that impacted her brain. On May 13, Hannah — middle name Joy — was born. She was with the couple for an hour and a half before passing away.
"Hannah means 'God’s grace,' and Joy -- obviously we were so excited to have another baby," she said. "But then even after the experience of losing her, we feel like her name fits more than it ever did in the beginning because we say her name as prayer. We pray for the grace to get through each day and the ability to find the joy in each moment."
Latos decided to share her family’s story on social media and interviews like this one, to let people know that behind the confident, informed journalist they see on the news is someone working through pain and grief. Maybe a viewer watching at home is also going through a loss, she said, and will feel a little less alone when they hear her family’s story.
"Life is really hard and life is really messy and I’m not going to pretend like we’re not hurting or grieving or angry or struggling because we are all of those things," she said.
Her husband Josh was by her side during this interview. The couple has been married for seven years. They dated when they were in high school and then went their separate ways when they went off to college. Eventually, they reconnected. Josh smiles and laughs when he says that a decade later they figured out they had gotten it right the first time.
The couple talk about the importance of their Christian faith. They say they’ve felt God’s work during what they refer to this “season” in their lives. Much like a summer or fall, the family will look back at these months grouped together with memories -- good, bad, and everything in between.
Latos recalls an especially kind nurse named Mandy who cared for the couple when their first daughter named Hope, who is now 2 1/2, was born. Years later when they were back in the hospital with the news that something was seriously wrong with their second child, Mandy happened to be working, and she once again took care of the couple. They exchanged phone numbers. And when Allison was going to give birth to Hannah, she texted Mandy to let her know.
Mandy got the text on her way home from a family beach trip. Allison was in the operating room getting ready for a cesarean section when a familiar face walked in the door. It was Mandy.
"She raced home and she dropped her kids and her husband in the driveway and came to the hospital," Latos recalled through tears. "And I just felt like to have someone who doesn’t really know us go so far out of their way to be a little bit of comfort in truly the worst thing we’ve ever experienced ... I don’t think that is something to take lightly."
With all that she’s been through, the pandemic has been the least of her family’s worries. But the pandemic did impact how they were going to gather to celebrate Hannah’s life. Originally, they hoped that by July the virus would be under control and a memorial service would be possible. But the closer the date came, the more apparent it was that the service would have to be put on hold.
Instead, a few family members came together.
Latos was cooking outside in July with her family when someone brought up the voicemail from the concerned viewer regarding her neck. Her brother, a doctor, said something did look a little off. The next day, she called her doctor and had a Zoom appointment.
"And even through my iPhone camera while I was talking with her she said, 'You know, I can see it,'" Latos said. "And she said, 'So, we’ll get labs and do an ultrasound.'"
Again, her labwork came back normal. She didn’t have any of the classic symptoms like fatigue or temperature swings that would normally lead to someone getting their thyroid checked out. But the ultrasound offered a different picture.
"There were two suspicious nodules and I had the biopsy a week later and found out right after I finished a noon broadcast it was cancer," Latos said.
Earlier this month, she had her thyroid removed and will undergo radioactive iodine treatments in September. She says she feels good, all things considered, and is confident in her recovery.
And that’s thanks in part to two people she credits with saving her life. The first being the woman who felt compelled to call her back in January. The second being her daughter Hannah.
"Had we not lost her, I wouldn’t be so anxious and worried to immediately seek an appointment with my primary care doctor," Latos said. "If she was here and healthy, I would be distracted with a newborn and caught up in all things motherhood that I would not be paying any attention to my own physical health. So, in some way, I think Hannah saved my life, too."
As Latos returns to work this week, she’s preparing to do her job as a journalist. To tell stories that often deal with people going through a trauma. And she’s thinking of her own story. And that includes her two girls with names that take on whole new meanings these days.
The youngest, Hannah Joy, who brought that emotion to the family in an unexpected way and continues to do so through prayer even though she’s not here.
And her first daughter, named Hope -- the feeling Latos and her husband carry with them as they share their family’s story.
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