Soap star opens up about fighting 2 types of cancer

The 65-year-old actor was diagnosed with two types of cancer in late 2023.

June 17, 2024, 11:16 AM

"General Hospital" star John York is opening up about his cancer treatment for the first time on "Good Morning America."

York has been battling two forms of cancer -- myelodysplastic syndrome and smoldering multiple myeloma -- but is getting back to work and returning to TV.

"Everybody has been very welcoming, very supportive ... I can't tell you how nice it's been, the support that I've gotten," York told ABC News' Zohreen Shah about making his return as Mac Scorpio on the long-running soap opera.

York said when he was 17 years old, he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, two conditions he said may have saved his life.

Speaking with Shah, York said it was during one of his annual visits to address his existing conditions that his doctors first spotted what later turned out to be the two cancers.

The 65-year-old said he was eventually diagnosed in late 2022 with myelodysplastic syndrome and smoldering multiple myeloma, which impact the blood and bone marrow.

John York appears on "Good Morning America," on June 17, 2024.
ABC News

"And I said, you know, 'How long would I have if I did nothing?'" York recalled of a conversation he had with his doctor. "And he said, 'Three to five years.' And I was like, 'Three to five years? Are you crazy? I feel fantastic.'"

York said he ultimately decided to opt for the most aggressive form of treatment -- finding a bone marrow donor and undergoing chemotherapy -- both of which helped him return to acting quickly.

"Seven days of chemo in Tennessee and then I was available to work for two to three, usually three weeks in California," York said.

"My philosophy was always, 'One day at a time. Let's just get through today,'" he added.

York's family stood by his side the entire time, and his son-in-law and grandson even shaved their heads in solidarity with him.

Months after learning his diagnosis, York said he decided to bring fans into his cancer journey as well by posting on social media.

"I made the announcement, and it has helped. And so many people have [joined] the [bone marrow donor] registry just to help save someone's life," York said.

Actor John York celebrates 60 Years of "General Hospital" at Stress Factory Comedy Club on Feb. 18, 2023 in New Brunswick, N.J.
Bobby Bank/Getty Images, FILE

Among those on the registry was one individual who York said also helped save his life. After months of searching for a bone marrow donor, York received a call from NMDP, formerly known as the National Marrow Donor Program and Be the Match.

"She said we found an exact match," York recalled of the phone call. "And I just couldn't talk. It's just a little bag of, you know, blood and fluid, and they put it in my body 40 minutes later, and now, I'm this person and my cells are now fighting each other and battling each other and getting to know each other. And here we are back to work."

York later returned to set with his fellow castmates showing their support in "Mac Is Back" shirts.

"I just felt so attached that I didn't feel like I missed anything. I feel like I just had a little break, a little vacation, I guess, and had to go through something," York said. "And now we're here on kind of the other side of it."

York thanked his doctors and health care team for their support throughout the process.

"They have just been so kind and so gentle and funny and loving, and not just with me -- there are so many people that have cancer. It's been an experience," he said.

He said he also hopes to meet his bone marrow donor one day and thank them.

"I'll be able to find out after a year," he said, referring to his donor's identity. "So, come November, if that gentleman wants to meet me, and I'd love to be able to meet him and say hi, and say thank you, that would be awesome."

York's Mac Scorpio is set to return in new, upcoming episodes of "General Hospital."