Family and friends of a beloved Florida news anchor are sharing heartfelt tributes after the veteran reporter died of cancer on Monday. She was 57.
Wendy Chioji, of WESH 2 News in Orlando, Florida, often spoke openly about having cancer — which she managed to endure while climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and completing numerous Ironman distance triathlons. Her brother, Alan Chiogioji, announced the death in a Monday night Facebook post, according to WESH.
“My beautiful, strong, defiant, bad-ass sister, Wendy Chioji, lost her fight with cancer tonight,” he wrote. “From climbing mountains, to participating in triathlons, to traveling the world, she lived everyday 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 grew up in Maryland, joined Orlando’s WESH in the ’80s, the Times reported. She worked with the station for 20 years, before announcing her stage II breast cancer diagnosis in 2001 and leaving her job to move to Park City, Utah, to pursue her passion for an active lifestyle that included Ironman triathalons and skiing.
In 2013, she shared on her blog that she had been diagnosed with Stage II Thymic Carcinoma. Just weeks after undergoing chemotherapy, radiation treatment, and surgery, Chioji climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Fuji, the Tampa Bay Times reported. In 2014, the same cancer was detected again, but she continued to travel and pursue adventures, according to the Times.
“My darling, brave friend is gone… free of the bonds that broke her body but never her spirit…it is soaring now…,” WESH reporter Claire Metz tweeted on Tuesday. “Wendy was a barrier breaker in television news…. a journalist of true character and talent who never forgot the human element of the story… love you Wendyl!”
Chioji detailed her health journey on her blog Live Fearlessly and lifestyle outlet Growing Bolder. Her Facebook account features several photos of the journalist participating in outdoor activities, completing races, and smiling wide in a hospital gown.
“I awakened to the heart-breaking news that my friend and former WESH co-anchor Wendy Chioji passed away after her long, hard FIGHT with cancer,” WESH reporter Amy Sweezey wrote on Facebook.
“She was a FORCE to be reckoned with and will be sorely missed. She ate pie for breakfast, (literally) climbed a mountain (Kilimanjaro!) and taught us to #DEFY to the very end.”
In her final blog post, Chioji was both grateful and hopeful.
“I believe that these drugs are going to work for me, hopefully sooner rather than later,” she wrote. “I am grateful I have lived well on my borrowed time for five years this Labor Day. I am hopeful I’ll borrow five more. #defy.”