2017 Pittsburgher of the Year: Kelly Frey
No one would blame the veteran WTAE anchor if she took time off while undergoing intensive breast cancer treatment. Instead, she chose to use humor and grace to educate and inspire others, all while in the public eye.
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The uncertainty surrounding Bennett’s survival prepared Frey and Luhn to take the news about her cancer in stride. Luhn, who says he still feels raw when he recalls the time they believed their son would not live past birth, says he met the news about his wife’s cancer with a matter-of-fact attitude.
“Emotionally, what we went through with our son really kind of tops anything that you can really compare it to,” he says. “I wasn’t nonchalant about it. … It stinks. It’s horrible to think my wife has something that could take her away from me. … My approach was, ‘You’ve got cancer, let’s figure this out. How can I help?’”
Hair Enhancements of Pittsburgh outfitted Frey with a wig that looks remarkably like her own blonde hair. Frey has worn the wig on air throughout her treatment.
Luhn, who often travels overseas for work, received permission from his base to be removed from a scheduled deployment to the Middle East in order to be closer to his wife as she underwent treatment. Eager to lend an extra hand, Frey’s parents began making more frequent trips from their home in Delaware to Pittsburgh to stay with their daughter. That extra time with family is something Angela Frey and her husband, Pen, cherish.
“That has been the bright light and the blessing in all of this, spending more time with her and being around the kids,” she says.
As they did with Bennett, Frey and Luhn leaned on their faith for strength. Once her cancer was confirmed, Frey says she prayed for energy and stamina to sustain her through the treatment process.
“Going through what we did with Bennett, having that terminal diagnosis, that was hard, because I had to trust that God had a master plan — whether he lived or died, no matter what. That was a real faith builder,” Frey says. “I think after going through that, when I got the diagnosis of breast cancer, it was like, ‘OK, what do you have in store for me now? And man, I’m on TV, do you really expect me to go public with this now, too? Am I in this position because I’m supposed to be public with this? Is this too much for people? What am I supposed to do with this?’”
After taking viewers on her journey with Bennett, Frey was sensitive to how the public would react to her having cancer, worried she was oversharing. That was for naught. Those in the Pittsburgh area and beyond have professed overwhelming support for the news anchor. Frey has received thousands of well-wishes in person and via social media. When she has the time and energy, she tries to get back to every person who contacts her, especially those who are or who have loved ones battling cancer.
“I don’t ever want to be the public persona that people get tired of,” she says. “Like OK, she’s got a special-needs child and now she’s got breast cancer and this is her latest cause. I don’t ever want to do that. I don’t want to ever feel like that. I don’t ever want to be pushing what’s going on in my life off on other people. I try to tread very lightly with that, and hopefully never be ... overbearing, maybe is the word.”
On social media, where she has a robust following, Frey strives to be honest and educational. Sometimes that also means being vulnerable.