Wendy Chioji, the former WESH 2 News anchor, has died. She was remembered in a tribute posted by her brother as beautiful, strong and defiant. Friends echoed that sentiment. Chioji was 57 years old.
The cause of death is cancer. She had shared her battle publicly, devoting her energy to helping others throughout the world and exhibiting a positive attitude and fighting spirit toward cancer. She moved to Utah, embraced the outdoors, and even completed five triathlons.
“My beautiful, strong, defiant, bad-ass sister, Wendy Chioji, lost her fight with cancer tonight. 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,” her brother Alan wrote, according to WESH 2.
Here’s what you need to know:
Colleagues Paid Tribute to Chioji, Saying She Was a Journalist of ‘True Character’ Who Taught Friends to ‘Defy’
Amy Sweezey, a meteorologist and author, shared the news on Facebook, writing, “I awakened to the heart-breaking news that my friend and former WESH co-anchor Wendy Chioji lost her long, hard FIGHT with cancer. 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. ❤️❤️ I will miss you, Wendella!”
Claire Metz, WESH 2 news reporter, wrote on Twitter: “my darling, brave friend is gone… free of the bonds that broke her body but never her spirit…it is soaring now… 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 Wendy!”
my darling, brave friend is gone… free of the bonds that broke her body but never her spirit…it is soaring now… 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! https://t.co/ufJUGAjori
— claire metz (@clairemetzwesh) October 8, 2019
Marc Middleton, who worked with Chioji in the past, wrote on Facebook, “I am devastated. I am heartbroken. I am lost. But I’ll SAY YES to today and tomorrow and I’ll DEFY because that is what Wendy Chioji did every day. She got up and she lived life fearlessly despite a terminal diagnosis or perhaps because of it.”
Chioji Advocated for Other Cancer Survivors & Traveled the World After Her Diagnosis
Wendy Chioji in a photo on her website.
Wendy Chioji had a website called “Live Fearlessly.” In the about me section, she described herself as, “Cancer Survivor. Triathlete. Livestrong Advocate. Adventurer. Animal Lover. Ex-News Anchor. And maybe, Your New Best Friend. All while trying to make the world a better place.”
She wrote on her website that she was a “two-time cancer survivor who’s going for number three right now. I survived Stage II breast cancer in 2001. During the ‘in between,’ I quit my job as a news anchor at WESH in Orlando and moved to the mountains of Park City, Utah, where I spend most of my time outdoors, skiing, running, hiking, riding bikes, and appreciating every day!”
Many accomplishments followed. “I also completed 5 Ironman distance triathlons (including the Kona World Championship in 2012), dozens of half-Ironman distance races, and lots of shorter races of every kind. Crossing a finish line for any race (especially Ironman) is extra special for me as a cancer survivor. It’s one finish line, one more victory after cancer tried to kill me the first time,” she wrote.
Chioji Climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro After Receiving Another Negative Health Diagnosis
The breast cancer diagnosis wasn’t the end of it, but Chioji doubled down on life. “In the fall of 2013, I was diagnosed with Thymic Carcinoma, a rare, aggressive cancer that is usually discovered in Stage IV, since there are no symptoms,” she wrote on her website.
“But I get MRIs every year because of my breast cancer in 2001, and that’s how my TC was discovered in Stage II. I did radiation, chemo, and surgery. Then, a few weeks later, I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro with Livestrong and the Survivor Summit, raced one more Ironman (badly), and climbed Mt Fuji with my 75-year-old dad.”
She added: “Then, in the fall of 2014, another MRI for the breast cancer, you guessed it, detected recurrence of the Thymic Carcinoma. After weeks of research and hard work by my amazing network of friends and former tv/news colleagues, I am in the clinical trials program at the National Cancer Institute. I’ve advocated for clinical trials much of my adult life and now it’s a clinical trial, and only a clinical trial, that will extend, if not save my life. I appreciate the circularity (?) of that.”
Chioji’s Ex Husband, an Attorney, Said She ‘Inhaled All That Life Offered’
Chioji was previously married to an attorney in Orlando, Florida.
Orlando attorney Mark NeJame, Chioji’s former husband, shared a tribute on Facebook. He wrote:
“Early this morning, I awoke to the crushing news that the courageous, inspiring, athletic, beautiful, very cool, smart, fearsome, cat-loving, talented, funny, adventurous, and compassionate Wendy Chioji has passed away. My heart aches. Wendy had battled cancer three times over the last many years and always prevailed. She even won her last battle because over the last 5 years she lived life to the very fullest, never letting cancer, the fear of death, or self-imposed limitations stop her. She DEFIED #DEFY! She climbed mountains (literally and spiritually). She traveled the world and missed nothing. She embraced all that life offered. Let me clarify…she inhaled all that life offered. She lived life on her terms. Always did. When she had enough of tv broadcasting, even though she was a local tv icon, she decided to head out west to Utah to live her new best life.”
“We met, fell in love, and were married for a relatively brief time in the early 90’s. Her energy and attitude were amazing even then. We remained true and lasting friends all these years and although life took us on different journeys and paths, she always had a special place in my heart. My heart hurts right now but I know that I was blessed to have had Wendy in my life. I am so proud of her for all the lives she touched and the people she inspired in her life, including mine. Rest in Peace dear Wendy…you certainly deserve it. I will miss you always.”
On Facebook, Wendy wrote that she worked at WESH, studied at Indiana University, went to Springbrook High, lived in Park City, Utah, and was from Silver Spring, Maryland.
Her most recent publicly visible post on Facebook was a donation to a breast cancer fundraiser.