Wendy Chioji, you just climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. What will you do for an encore?
"I am training for a June Ironman and a July climb of Mount Fuji with my dad," the former WESH-Channel 2 anchor says.
Oh, and she's hosting another "Surviving & Thriving" special at 9 p.m. Friday on WKMG-Channel 6. Chioji, a breast cancer survivor, will mention the Kilimanjaro climb in the special. She scaled the African mountain in February with others as part of the Survivor Summit, which benefits the Livestrong Foundation.
"The climb was a phenomenal, life-changing experience on a lot of levels," said Chioji, who now lives in Park City, Utah. "Physically, it was tougher than I expected, especially coming 10 weeks after my radiation/chemo ended. The terrain was often rocky, slippery and steep, with big potential consequences from a misstep. It also rained and snowed, making it even more challenging."
In September, Chioji disclosed that she was battling thymic carcinoma, a rare, fast-growing cancer of the thymus gland.
"I feel pretty well," she said this week. "I have scarring on my lung from the radiation."
She said she saw the CT scan Tuesday. "It's pretty impressive. But it also makes it hard for me to fill my lungs -- impossible really -- so I'm now in the care of another doc, this time a lung doc, who has prescribed inhalers to treat the symptoms til the problem, hopefully, goes away," she said.
The "Surviving & Thriving" special features new contributor Secily Wilson, a former WKMG staffer. The special contains a frank exchange between Chioji and WKMG's Jessica Sanchez, who has recovered from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Executive producer Marc Middleton, Choji's former WESH colleague, said: "Jessica came on and said, 'Every cancer patient's recovery is different, and it's not fair to compare yourself to others. You were climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and I was having trouble getting out of bed.' It was interesting, respectful and a great discussion to have on local TV in prime time."
Chioji's Kilimanjaro climb will become a documentary that Middleton hopes will premiere in August on WKMG and later play film festivals. "The video of the climb came out great," Middleton said.
Chioji said the climb was emotionally powerful. "We were 16 people who kind of knew each other, but we're forever linked now after this shared experience," she said.
"For me, it was also the 'so there!' at the end of yet another cancer skirmish," she added. "People asked during my treatment whether I should still climb. A ridiculous question. Climbing that mountain with the Livestrong/Survivor Summit group was what I had trained my eye on for the three months of treatment and the best way I've ever celebrated survivorship. I don't think I will get to have this level of emotion/empowerment again this lifetime. It was incredible."
The next "Surviving & Thriving" special will offer a more detailed report on that climb, Middleton said.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun