How Do You Define ‘Defy?’

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Wendy Chioji was an award-winning broadcast journalist, world traveler, adventure racer, mountain guide and Ironman triathlete. And, most importantly, our dear and beloved friend. She was the host of the Emmy© Award-nominated program, “Surviving & Thriving,” and a contributor to Growing Bolder’s national TV show. A passionate fundraiser and philanthropist, Chioji was a tireless advocate for cancer survivors worldwide. She died on October 7, 2019. This is her final essay for Growing Bolder Magazine, appearing in the Fall 2019 issue.

By Wendy Chioji

I have been defiant since I was a kid, much to my parents’ chagrin. Back then, “defy” meant pushing boundaries hard, to see how much more of an experience you can get. That got me grounded a few times and caused at least a couple of visits to the dean’s office with my mom. But I was learning what happens when you push subjective limits. That is my 57-year-old excuse for my 17-year-old self.

As a young adult, “defy” started to mean proving naysayers wrong. In college, I was cut by pretty much every sorority in the first round of rush. I’m not sure what kind of vibe I was sending. I sulked for a while, but then my rush counselor told me that Pi Beta Phi, which had been one of my top houses, had a girl drop out of the pledge class. I cold-called the rush chairman at Pi Phi, and for whatever reason, she invited me to lunch. Then she invited me again. Long story short, I was asked to be part of the sorority, where I knew no one, and it was the greatest college experience I had. Defy the oversight (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it).

As a cub TV reporter, a consultant once told me that there were other jobs in TV that weren’t on-air, and maybe I should investigate. I was floored. For a minute. Then, I took the more helpful tips she gave me and worked on getting better. End result: I had a 25-year television career, the vast majority of which was in the main anchor chair. You don’t have to wear what others throw at you. Defy!

As a metastatic Thymic cancer patient, the only true options I have are clinical trials. The first time there was no trial for me to enter, my doctor told me about one that only helped 10 percent of the participants. It failed for 90 percent. We figured someone is in that 10 percent, why not me? I was in that trial for 2 1/2 years, the longest I’ve been in any trial. We defied the odds and bought some time.

Wendy Chioji: Defy

I was wearing my awesome Defy shirt once, and a guy asked me, “Defy what?” That made me think. As an adult, what is defy to me? It is standing up for myself. Being my own advocate. Believing and proving that I am not the average, I have to be the exception. The average lifespan for someone with my cancer is 18 months. I’ve made it 5 1/2 years and I’m still traveling and working as a freelance producer and doing yoga, Pilates and boxing. I’m realistic. I can’t do what I did, but my goal is to continue to defy the odds and make the rest of my life the best of my life. #defy

Wendy wrote candidly about her long battle against cancer, as well as her passion for travel, cats, enjoying time with friends and family and eating great food. Oh, the meals she enjoyed! Click here to read her posts on her blog, Living Fearlessly.