This news anchor has been working through cancer treatment, wearing a wig and false lashes. After nearly a year, she's taking it all off.
It’s been a liberating week for Pam Huff.
Huff, the first female nightly news anchor in the state of Alabama, had not stopped working for ABC 33/40 since starting treatment for breast cancer in August 2022, which included intense rounds of chemotherapy and radiotherapy as well as a lumpectomy. During that time, the journalist wore a wig and false lashes as a way to mask the physical side effects of treatment, which can often include hair loss. This week, however, she let it all go.
On Tuesday’s telecast, Huff celebrated being cancer free by going on air without the wig and fake eyelashes she’d worn for months.
For many viewers, it was the first time they’d seen her real hair since starting treatment. For Huff, it was — quite literally — a weight off her shoulders.
“I called the wig my hat,” she tells Yahoo Life. “Every evening when I walked in the house, the first thing I took off was my hat. So, my family was very accustomed to seeing me this way, and my close friends and neighbors. It was very freeing to me to be able to lift that off [on air] and go, ‘OK, this is it. I have nothing else. You've seen it all!’”
Opening up to viewers about her diagnosis was not an easy choice to make, although she'd already been sharing her new look on her personal social media accounts.
“I was scared. I really didn't know how people would take to it,” she says of the thought process leading into Tuesday's newscast. “Although people have seen some pictures online, obviously it's different to go on the air and do a full newscast with this little tiny bit of hair that I have. I didn't know if it would be received well — but it was.”
In fact, the response from viewers was so positive that “people were texting and messaging and sending emails” to the 33/40 news team within minutes of Huff debuting her wig-free head.
“People were saying, ‘Go for it,’ ‘It’s wonderful,’ and ‘You go girl!’” she relays of the response. “So, the hair is now here. We’ll see what happens from this point forward. I don’t know what we’ll end up doing with it.”
The 69-year-old, who's married with two grown daughters and two grandchildren, first revealed her breast cancer diagnosis on a July 2022 newscast.
“I have some personal news to share with you this afternoon," Huff told viewers at the time. Every year since I was 35, I have had a mammogram. There have been a couple of scares along the way, but it was always fine until now. I have been diagnosed with breast cancer.”
Prayers and good thoughts appreciated! pic.twitter.com/hmxBgJBwJb
— Pam Huff (@pamabc3340) July 20, 2022
“I do want to remind all of you of the importance of those annual mammograms,” she continued. “Mine was clear in 2021. The cancer that I have is considered aggressive and it developed within the last 12 months. So please, don't put off getting a mammogram. I'm in my 60s and breast cancer was not on my radar. But here we are.”
Huff says she first noticed something was amiss in May 2022. “I have what is known as dense breast tissue,” she notes. “It's very easy for pre-cancer to hide, if you will, within the breast tissue. So I've had a couple of scares, but it always came out fine. And I assumed that this would be the same. But it was quite different.”
The physicians ultimately diagnosed her with triple-negative breast cancer, which she describes as “the most rapidly growing kind of cancer there is.”
"You don't have a lot of choice in how your treatment progresses at that point, because it is so rapidly developing," she explains. "You immediately go into chemotherapy, then they do surgery to either remove the breast — or, in my case, a lumpectomy. And then, I had 33 treatments of radiation.”
Huff was also treated with doxorubicin, known to be the "worst part of chemo," she says, noting that "it's sometimes called the Red Devil. And believe me, it lives up to the name. It's horrendous." The likely final step of treatment is taking an oral chemotherapy pill.
Even during the worst phases of treatment, Huff says she never missed more than "two or three days" of work a week. She credits her Christian faith and her "deep devotion" to the work for giving her strength.
“There were days when I felt like crap and I did not want to be anywhere but I sucked it up,” she says. “I needed to know that there was still a purpose for me to get up every morning. I needed to know that there was somebody counting on me. I am not the kind of person to sit at home and go, ‘Oh, poor pitiful me, what am I gonna do now?’ Work was extremely important.”
Now, Huff hopes her story will help encourage others to prioritize routine cancer screenings — especially mammograms — so that, like her, they may be able to "catch it early."
"Give yourself a chance by checking yourself, by going in and having a mammogram," she says. "For men, go in and have your prostate exam. Do whatever you need to do. Give yourself a chance, because you don't want to fight this enemy. It's not an easy one to win."
Huff turns 70 next week and she's looking back and toward the future. "I think of what I've been through in the past nine months, and I know I've always been a fighter," she says. "I am cancer free now. That's the beauty of all of this — and the real glory."
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