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'General Hospital' Star John J. York Approaches Cancer Diagnosis with Positive Attitude

The ‘General Hospital’ star tells PEOPLE that if his asking people to sign up for organ donation with saves one life, “that's huge”

<p>Craig Sjodin/ABC</p>

Craig Sjodin/ABC

General Hospital star John J. York isn’t letting a cancer diagnosis get him down by any means.

The soap opera veteran, 64, who has played Mac Scorpio on the ABC daytime drama for 22 years, announced last week that he had been diagnosed with two forms of cancer — myelodysplastic syndromes, or MDS, and multiple smoldering myeloma — two blood and bone marrow disorders. But because he has battled ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease since he was 17, his feeling is, “It's just another thing that I gotta now take care of.”


“I went through life with colonoscopies, medicines, the whole thing, and always had to be under doctor's care,” he tells PEOPLE, adding with great positivity, “and living life. Everything's good.”

York had periodic checkups on those pre-existing conditions, and each time his doctor told him he had a spot that just doesn't want to heal. As a result, he was put on mild chemo in a pill form. However, in October 2022, the hematologist — a doctor specializing in blood conditions — suggested a bone marrow biopsy. Then, on Dec. 9, 2022, York recalls with clarity, the doctor walked into his office with a big stack of papers, dropping them on his desk and saying, “Is your wife available for a conference call?”

“I thought, ‘Well, that can’t be good,” York laughs.

<p>Courtesy of John J. York</p> 'General Hosptital' star John J. York (Mac) and his wife Vicki

Courtesy of John J. York

'General Hosptital' star John J. York (Mac) and his wife Vicki

They got York’s wife of 37 years, Vicki, on the phone. “She was a mess,” York remembers. “[The doctor] was explaining all these different things and cells and all different levels and words that had, you know, 25 letters in them. And I didn't understand. And Vicki finally came out and said, ‘Does John have cancer?’ And he said, ‘Yes.’ And I'm sitting there, I'm really just like a fly on the wall, listening to him talk to Vicki because she was the one asking all the questions.” At the end of his doctor’s conversation with Vicki, York’s one question was simple: “Why do I feel so good?”

“I feel great,” York says. “I mean, I walk three miles a day and I'm in great shape. And my diet is great and my appetite is great. [The doctor] said that was because we got it early.”

Related: 'General Hospital’ Star John J. York Reveals 2 Blood and Bone Marrow Disorder Diagnoses: 'This Isn't Goodbye'

Although chemo treatment was set to begin through UCLA and the doctor that made the diagnosis, York and Vicki were in the process of moving to Tennessee, where their daughter Skyler lives with her family. He didn’t want to tell Skyler of the diagnosis over the phone and instead wanted to wait until the move was complete. But after a couple of sleepless nights, York asked Vicki to call their daughter with the news. Skyler’s husband suggested that rather than York flying back and forth from Tennessee to LA for treatments, he do everything at the nearby Vanderbilt and its “amazing university and cancer center.”

Related: 'General Hospital' Celebrates 60 Years! See Past and Present Stars Gather for Stunning Cast Photo

The IV chemo treatment was a piece of cake for York. “You check in and you sit and you wait. It's like waiting for a table at a restaurant almost. You know what I mean?” he laughs. “It's like about a 15-20 minute infusion for seven days in a row, and then 28 days after the first day of that infusion cycle. I had one in March, April, May, June, July, August, and now I'm gonna have another one coming up in September.”

York adds, “It is what it's, you know what I mean? And then everybody's gotta get their treatment. And then you go home, go about your life and you play with the kids. And here we are.”

York has been moved up on the donor priority list and thinks they’re close to finding him a bone marrow donor. “I'm excited about that,” he says. "Many of my family members tested. I believe that the age range is like 18 to 40 to join the registry at”

<p>Ricky Middlesworth/ABC</p> ABCs General Hospital stars Kristina Wagner as Felicia Scorpio and John J. York as Mac Scorpio.

Ricky Middlesworth/ABC

ABCs General Hospital stars Kristina Wagner as Felicia Scorpio and John J. York as Mac Scorpio.

As far as General Hospital goes, he’s been flying back and forth from Tennessee to LA for filming, since his doctor hasn't put any travel restrictions on him. When the transplant starts, the doctor told him he has to “stay in semi-isolation” at home. Luckily, he lives within 30 minutes of the hospital in case there is a problem, like if his temperature spikes, which is “a very serious situation.”

“My whole philosophy is one day at a time; whatever they need me to do,” York tells PEOPLE. “Well, if I'm staying in a hospital, I'll stay in a hospital. If I can go home, I'll go home, where we have a place where I can be by myself, you know, away from the kids.”

Related: The 10 Most Memorable Moments on General Hospital

"It goes without saying that Vicki is taking on the caretaker role. She's that now, and she's been that way forever,” York laughs. She has been his pillar of strength and “the guiding force.”

“The immediate reaction was fear, probably,” York says of Vicki’s state of mind upon first hearing her husband had “the c-word.”

“Yeah, she's scared, but believe it or not, I really kinda wasn't because I feel great. Personally, I feel like it's in God's hands. God's will be done. It's gonna work out okay, one way or another. I'm either gonna survive or I'm not. And life goes on and things are gonna be okay for everybody... Let's just go one day at a time.”

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