Pam in hospital with nurses

Broadcaster Pam Huff: Relying on Faith in Cancer Fight

Cover Story


Pam Huff was getting ready to go on air at ABC 33/40 this past July when she got the news from her doctor that would change her life. With just 45 minutes before airtime, the longtime Birmingham television news anchor received the message: “It’s not good. You’ve got triple negative breast cancer, and we’re going to move fast.” Her life changed drastically immediately following that moment, as she began treatments and had a lumpectomy on January 31. Huff said she relies on prayer, faith, and the support of her family, friends, and viewers as she battles cancer and vows to “come out on the other side stronger than ever.”

Pam in hospital with nurses
Treatment for Huff’s aggressive breast cancer began as soon as she received her diagnosis. She’s received treatments of the chemotherapy drug commonly called “The Red Devil” (doxorubicin) while also having a lumpectomy and radiation treatments.

Cancer News. Huff’s cancer diagnosis came as a shock, as she’d always been a strong advocate of regular mammograms; she’s had them annually for decades, and her latest one just twelve months before had been clear. “I never expected to go through this in my 69th year,” she said. “I’ve never missed a mammogram since I was 35. Every time it’s been fine, but this time was different,” adding, “With that news, my world absolutely changed.” Huff’s type of cancer is the most aggressive of all breast cancers and has required equally aggressive treatment from the very beginning of her diagnoses. Following her most recent surgery, she’s been on 33 straight days of radiation treatment. Through it all, she’s stayed dedicated to her work–and, in many ways, it’s been a lifeline for her. “I’ve worked as much as I could through it, even though those first four weeks were difficult. I had to adjust my work schedule some, based on when I was taking Taxol (a chemotherapy drug),” she said. “Other than that, I’ve been here. I may have had to pump myself up to work for an hour, and there were days when I went to work, came home, and slept. But being here has been important.” While she worked, her dedicated viewers and fans saw a new side and a new passion to their favorite local broadcaster. 

Pam Huff at J. Wigs
Huff gives huge credit to the staff at J. Wigs in Helena for providing her with excellent service and support as she got to the point where she needed wigs following chemotherapy.

Huff has used her experience to encourage women to get annual checkups, including mammograms, and has been buoyed by stories from women who’ve changed their ways because of her story. It’s something she’s been vocal about on air, through social media posts, and through personal interactions throughout her cancer journey. She said she’s had women ask how to help a friend who’s just been diagnosed with cancer, while others ask honest questions about the disease. “People have told me they never had a mammogram, but that I convinced them to go,” she said. “I hope and pray and believe that I may have saved a life because of my story.” According to Huff, the last months have reiterated what she already knew–that Birminghamians are some of the most loyal and caring people anywhere. “People are very loyal to broadcasters in Birmingham,” she said. “They become part of your family. I try to share as much with them, and they’ve in turn told me they’re praying for me. It’s been so special.” Love and support have also come from her co-workers. One of her first calls when receiving her cancer diagnosis was to friend and fellow broadcaster Brenda Ladun, who is a breast cancer survivor herself, and her co-workers at ABC 33/40 have been with her every step of the way.

Huff said that Birmingham broadcasters are unique in the business; many of them have stayed in the city for years, even decades, because they love the area, their viewers, and their fellow media members. Huff’s partners at her station, and at other media outlets in Birmingham, have put their full support behind her. They’ve even gone with Huff on trips to her favorite wig store- J. Wigs in Helena. They’ve shared their love in public statements of support. And they’ve prayed for her. “We’ve created a huge prayer chain during this time,’ she said. “It’s incredible.”

Pam Huff and daughters
Pam Huff appeared with her then teenage daughters on the cover of Birmingham Christian Family in 2002. Today, Lauren and Jennifer work as professionals in Montgomery and Birmingham. Giving their daughters a stable childhood is one reason Pam never moved to a bigger city and broadcasting market. Photo credit: Holland Photo Arts

Love for Birmingham. Huff has called Birmingham home for more than four decades and became Alabama’s first female ever assigned to a prime-time nightly news anchor position in 1977. She won an Emmy for her work in 2007 and currently anchors “The News at 4” and “The News at 5” on ABC 33/40 while also providing special reports on state politics, local government, and public education in the state. Huff grew up in West Virginia, graduated with a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of West Virginia, and then lived in Fla. with her husband Bill (who was a native of Scranton, Pennsylvania). When Bill decided that he wanted to attend Cumberland School of Law at Samford University, she considered working in Birmingham and took a visit to check out the city. That visit–and two particular experiences from it–convinced her that they were meant to be in Birmingham.

Huffs Coworkers at J. Wigs
Huff’s co-workers at ABC 33/40 visited with her at J. Wigs and supported her through the process. “All of us went together to try on wigs,” she said. “They’ve just been amazing in so many ways.”

“We were in town, and someone handed me a Coca Cola. I remember thinking that this was the best Coke I’d ever had,” she recalled, laughing. “And then we were trying to find Vulcan, and we met a nice man who told us to just follow him, and he’d get us there. He was a stranger, but so willing to help us. I told my husband, ‘This is where we need to be.’ We’ve been here ever since.” They settled into life in Birmingham, welcomed two daughters into their family, and never considered going anywhere else. “Bill has always been so supportive of my career and was willing to leave if I wanted to go somewhere else,” she said. “But we love it here and never really wanted to leave.” Today Bill works as a federal prosecutor in Birmingham, and their daughters are grown with their own careers and families. Lauren, 37, works at the attorney general’s office in Montgomery and Jennifer, 36, is a clinical psychologist in Birmingham. Grandchildren Tate, 8, and Lulu, 5, have added extra meaning to their family. Huff said that telling her grandchildren about her disease has been one of the toughest parts of the last months, but that they’ve handled it with love and the sweet support that only young kids can give.

“Telling my granddaughters about my cancer was hard. It’s something you never want to tell them,” she said. “My whole family went to my wig shop in Helena with me. Lulu had her pom poms to cheer me on and said, ‘Go, Mumzy, go.’ And they told me that I was still beautiful.” That support from her family has been integral, Huff said. “My husband and children have been wonderful,” she said. “I’m a type A personality and I can be big and brash and bold. My belief is that as long as I can do something, I’m going to do it. But I need others to be there for me.”

Pam Huff with husband
Huff and her husband, Bill have made the Magic City home for more than 40 years. According to Huff, the love and support of her husband has been integral during her cancer journey.

Family and Faith. Huff was raised in a Christian home and attended a Southern Baptist church as a youngster in West Virginia. She became a Christian when she was 8 years old and says she has felt God with her throughout her life. “It was a childlike faith and of course it has to grow,” she said. “I’ve always been a Christian; I grew up knowing about the Bible. It’s all I’ve ever known.” Huff and her husband have always made faith in their family life, and today attend Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham. Her faith, Huff said, has been integral in how she’s approached her cancer diagnosis, and admits that she’s both struggled and grown in her relationship with God during this time. “I’m an extremely strong and independent person, but I just fell on my knees. I told God that I didn’t know how to do this,” she said. “Prayer became very real, very fast.” In her first on-air announcement about her cancer diagnosis, Huff told her viewers: “I want you to know I am a woman of great faith. And I know that God has me every single step of the way. I’ve already seen that. He’s not finished with me yet. So, I’m going to work through this. I’m going to come out on the other side stronger than ever. But right now, I ask for your prayers.” The outpouring was overwhelming and reiterated her belief in the people of Birmingham and in her faith system. “I don’t know the outcome. Only God knows the outcome,” she said. “But I’m confident in Him, and I know that the support I’ve received during this time as been amazing. I can’t give enough thanks for that.”

-Cheryl Wray

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