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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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Rolling with the Punches

Early on in her chemo treatment, Frey, expecting good news, got a big blow instead. The tumor, after three intense sessions, wasn’t shrinking. But Frey, in a detailed Facebook post, noted it wasn’t growing either. 

“Even though you get this plan through cancer, even though just when you think it’s going great, then it’s not,” she says. “You just have to clear your mind of whatever you’re assuming and get ready to roll with the punches.”

Johnson notes the results were unusual.

“The vast majority of people who get appropriate systemic therapy respond,” he says. “In fact, it is so typical that it almost becomes an expectation. While everyone knows there are nonresponders, they are few and far between. It sets off a lot of alarm bells.”

Frey’s cancer team reviewed her charts and, after determining her triple negative diagnosis was more borderline than initially thought, adjusted her treatment plan. The tumor began to shrink, and Frey went on to have a lumpectomy in the fall of 2017. 

Frey says the change in plans taught her an important lesson when it comes to cancer: assume nothing. Since her diagnosis, Frey, now 44, has been eating healthier (and by extension, so is her family), getting exercise when she can, and basically doing everything within her power to prevent the cancer from recurring. 

Frey will continue to receive chemo every three weeks throughout the spring, but her hair, now silver and curly, has started to grow back. She recently dyed it blonde and had it arranged into a stylish pixie cut. When the time is right, she says she’ll make her debut on air without the wig. 

She recently marked another milestone in her battle, her last radiation treatment. In another emotional Facebook Live post — Frey says she saves them for momentous occasions — she rang a golden bell located in Magee’s cancer wing that patients jingle to signify their final treatment. Frey undertook the task with tears ­— and with joy. 

“For anyone who’s ever had to ring this bell because you’ve gone through radiation,” Frey says in the video before vigorously ringing the bell and laughing: “This. One. Is. For. You.”  

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