Why I Do What I Do
Christina Pirello, host of Christina Cooks television show

Today Christina Pirello is the thriving host of Christina Cooks, a food and lifestyle program on public television and on Comcast. In 1983, however, she was a freelance illustrator and self-described “Snickers-bar vegetarian.” Then, at age 26, Pirello was diagnosed with leukemia and given three to six months to live. She declined chemotherapy, turned to a macrobiotic diet, and continued to have her blood count monitored by a physician; 14 months later Pirello was cancer-free. Inspired by her experience, she trained as a macrobiotic and whole-foods chef and began teaching cooking classes in her home. Last fall she began the seventh season of her TV program, for which she won a Mid-Atlantic regional Emmy award in 1998.

Q. Did you always believe you would survive cancer?

A. No. I decided against chemotherapy because I thought, “If I’m going to die anyway, why would I want to spend the time bald and nauseated?” I didn’t know about alternatives. I didn’t know I would get well, and it took a while to feel that way.

Q. How do you respond to people who are skeptical about your approach to recovery?

A. Well, I didn’t do anything but change my diet, and I’m still here 20 years later. Was there divine intervention, too? Of course. But I didn’t meditate or anything else—just changed the way I ate.

Q. What advice would you offer to healthy people who want to prevent cancer?

A. Get rid of saturated fats, hydrogenated oils, and simple sugars. Add more vegetables; whole, unprocessed, in-season foods; and foods like miso, avocados, blueberries, and dark leafy greens.

Q. What are you having for dinner tonight?

A. Belgian endive salad, fresh corn on the cob, white bean soup, carrots al latte with soy milk, and dried cherries.

—Corinne McKay