Wendy Chioji climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. She summited Mount Fuji. She completed Ironman triathlons.
But the former Orlando TV news anchor’s biggest achievement was beating cancer — twice — and motivating others along the way.
Unfortunately, a third victory over the deadly disease was too much to ask for.
Chioji, whose “Live Fearlessly” blog and contributions to “Growing Bolder TV” inspired countless others waging health battles of their own, died Monday following an 18-year fight with cancer. She was 57.
Her brother shared the news Monday night in a Facebook post.
“My beautiful, strong, defiant, bad-ass sister, Wendy Chioji, lost her fight with cancer tonight," Alan Chiogioji wrote. “From climbing mountains, to participating in triathlons, to traveling the world, she lived every day to the fullest. She never let her disease stop her from doing the things that she wanted to do. She is my hero, and I miss her already.”
Chioji, who worked as a news anchor at WESH-Channel 2 in Orlando, revealed that she had been diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer during a 2001 newscast. She quit her job after 20 years at the station and moved to Park City, Utah, where she spent much of her time outdoors: skiing, running hiking and bike riding. She completed five Ironman distance triathlons, including the Kona World Championship in 2012, dozens of half-Ironman distance races and numerous shorter races.
“Crossing a finish line for any race (especially Ironman) is extra special for me as a cancer survivor,” she wrote on her blog. “It’s one finish line, one more victory after cancer tried to kill me the first time.”
Chioji invited readers into her life, sharing details about her health and experiences on her blog, “Live Fearlessly.” She was a regular contributor to “Growing Bolder,” a lifestyle show that presents inspirational stories and tips to its viewers meant to help them lead happier and more fulfilling lives, and hosted the two-time Emmy-nominated show, “Surviving & Thriving.”
In 2013, Chioji revealed on her blog that she had been diagnosed with Stage II Thymic Carcinoma. A few weeks after undergoing radiation, chemotherapy and surgery, she climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, competed in another Ironman and climbed Mount Fuji with her then-75-year-old father.
A year later, an MRI showed that the cancer had returned. Chioji entered the clinical trials program at the National Cancer Institute.
She didn’t let the disease slow her down, traveling to Tanzania, Japan, South Korea and Ireland. She rode in the Ride for the Roses in Austin and set her fastest Ironman swim time in the Beach to Battleship Ironman Triathlon in Wilmington, N.C.
Her most recent post was on Sept. 25. She acknowledged that she could sing entire albums by the band, Nine Inch Nails, and revealed that she was starting Gemzar and Xeloda, treatment used primarily for patients with pancreatic cancer but also shown to be effective against Thymic Carcinoma.
“I am grateful I have lived well on my borrowed time for five years this Labor Day,” she wrote. “I am hopeful I’ll borrow five more.” #defy #livefearlessly
Friends and former colleagues were heart-broken by the news of Chioji’s death and posted personal tributes on social media.
“She was a FORCE to be reckoned with and will be sorely missed,” WESH meteorologist Amy Sweezey wrote on Facebook.
WESH news reporter Claire Metz echoed those sentiments, calling Chioji “a barrier breaker in television news ... a journalist of true character and talent who never forgot the human element of the story.”
Wrote Bill Shafer, the executive VP at “Growing Bolder,” “Wendy Choji will be remembered for her many adventures in the face of cancer, but more important, for how she always stopped to help others.”
FOX 35′s Amy Kaufeldt might have summed it up best: “Cancer has never known such a fierce opponent.”