'General Hospital's John J. York Emotionally Talks Returning to Soap After Cancer Battle

'General Hospital' star John J. York became emotional while discussing his battle with cancer and returning to TV.

General Hospital star John J. York became emotional while discussing his battle with cancer and the overwhelming support he has received from fans while joining bone marrow donor registries.

The 65-year-old soap opera actor was diagnosed with two types of blood and bone marrow cancer, myelodysplastic syndrome and smoldering multiple myeloma, in 2022 after a routine checkup. His treatment required bone marrow transplants to fight the disease.

According to the National Cancer Institute, myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) is a type of cancer "in which immature blood cells in the bone marrow do not mature or become healthy blood cells." Additionally, Smoldering Multiple Myeloma is a slow-growing form of multiple myeloma, which is a form of cancer that affects plasma cells, causing them to overproduce one type of antibody.

Appearing on Good Morning America, York teared up when describing how many people signed up to donate bone marrow after he made his diagnosis public. "I made the announcement and it has helped. And so many people have-," he said, pausing to collect himself before continuing, "joined the registry, just to help to save someone's life."

York is now back to work, filming episodes of General Hospital for months after undergoing cancer treatments. He went through seven days a week of chemotherapy at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee before being cleared to fly to California and get back on the set.

In November 2023, after months of waiting, York found a perfect 20-year-old bone marrow donor match, allowing him to quickly return to work. The NMDP called him and told him they found an exact match. "I couldn't talk," York emotionally recalled to GMA through tears.

The actor received a transfusion of the donated bone marrow cells and hopes to one day meet and thank his life-saving donor in person.

York has starred as Mac Scorpio on General Hospital since originating the character in 1991. He first announced he'd be taking a hiatus from the series in early September. He will return to the soap opera on June 19.

In an emotional interview with ET's Nischelle Turner in September prior to his transplant, York discussed his diagnosis, treatment journey, and the decision to use his platform to raise awareness for potential donors.

"I did want to keep it private. So when I was diagnosed back in December of 2022, I told [my wife] Vicki [Manners], 'Oh, let's just keep it close and go through the process. I don't want to tell everybody. I don't want everybody to fight,'" York shared.

York connected with Be the Match, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping patients find a bone marrow or stem cell donor match. During a conversation with a Be the Match representative, he began to realize the potential of using his platform to make a difference.

"At one point she said, 'You know, because a lot of people like to use their platform.' But I understood, and then I kind of was putting two and two together," York explained. 

John J. York - Christopher Willard/ABC via Getty Images

As he learned more about the organization's mission and how he could help, York decided it was time to share his journey publicly. However, he initially hesitated, not wanting his colleagues at General Hospital to know about his condition. Only a select few within the show's production team were informed to accommodate his treatment schedule.

In August, York received the news that he had been placed on the priority list for a transplant. This pivotal moment marked the beginning of his active involvement with Be the Match.

Speaking about his decision to use his platform, York said, "I have goosebumps about that because it was, and I can't even tell you the support. When that happened because I made that video, they wanted a video, and they wanted to add some things to it. I had no idea how people would respond to it. It's been overwhelming to me and my family. So I'm glad I did it."

He continued, "So if what I'm doing and just talking about it could possibly help someone out there, how many people within the age range could join the registry to help someone? It's not a big deal. I guess you just do a swab and send it in the mail, and they store it, whatever they do."

York encouraged everyone to visit Be the Match's website to find information about the registration process and how to potentially become a donor, emphasizing that "just making yourself available is really what it's all about."

John J. York and Tanisha Harper - Christine Bartolucci/ABC via Getty Images

An emotional York also reflected with ET on being on General Hospital for 31 years. "I went from waiting tables at the Cheesecake Factory to my wife being eight months pregnant. I started the show and three weeks later, my daughter was born, Skylar, and now she's 32 and I have three amazing grandchildren," he said.

York shared that he's more appreciative of these moments after all he's experienced, "I like to pray. I pray every day. In one of my prayers, there are a couple of lines: 'Patience obtains all things and take one day at a time, one moment at a time.' And that's really what it is because we're always looking to go beyond each moment. You know what's happening next, what are we gonna do later, and what's going on tomorrow. Just watch the kids run screaming, break things, or whatever they're doing. They always have something to show me. And it's just too much fun, you know, reading books and it's just the best."

Prior to receiving his transplant, York shared with ET what he was feeling, noting, "I've always taken it one day at a time."