GENERAL HOSPITAL fans know John J. York as Port Charles’s dashing police commissioner, Mac
Scorpio. Others know him as an avid golfer for various charitable events.
But the Tiger Woods of daytime (“Ha!” York scoffs. “More like Tiger
Woods’s caddie!”) puts on a new hat, that of celebrity spokesperson for the
CCFA, the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America. Here, the actor reveals
why this cause is so close to his heart.Soap Opera Digest: How did you get involved in
John J. York: CCFA is a great organization. I was diagnosed with ulcerative
colitis when I was 15 years old. I lost 60 pounds in six months. I would say
ulcerative colitis changed my life in a way that was profound. I was headed
into football. I was 210 pounds when I was a junior in high school. All I
thought about was football and sports. I was planning to head to a Big 10
school but the colitis forced me to rethink everything.
Digest: How so?
York: I went to a small state school in Wisconsin and that was when I first thought, “What do I want to do with my life?” I reflected back to the fifth grade. I was in the play Oliver! I played the Artful Dodger and I liked doing that, and over the course of time, I realized I wanted to live in California and if I lived in California, what was I going to do in California? I grew up watching TV. I love television, and thought, “Okay, I’ll become an actor,” and it just morphed that way. So from football to colitis changed my life.
Digest: It really did. How’d you first get involved with CCFA?
York: When I refocused, and once I was diagnosed, dealing with the struggles
and getting well, I found out about the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of
America. They’re a great support group and a great source of information.
There are millions of people who suffer with some type of digestive
problems. There are a lot of doctors and scientists working and they’re
finding new kinds of medications. These guys are on the cutting edge. When
someone from CCFA calls, if I can do something, I’ll do it.
Digest: Besides the Public Service Announcements you’ve done, what else does being a celebrity spokesperson entail?
York: I went to a symposium last year. A doctor who was there gave the main
speech but I gave a little talk. I must say, after listening to him, I was
like, “Who am I? I’m just Joe Blow as far as I’m concerned.” I do have this
job in television and maybe it makes a difference if I can tell someone,
“When it flares up, I go to the bathroom a lot, too [laughs].” It’s one
thing we all do. We all go and some people go more than others. It’s nothing
to be ashamed of. Digest: What advice do you have for those who have these conditions?
York: You have to take care of yourself. You have to know your body. Listen
to your doctor and get all the information you can.
Digest: It’s great to get people talking about it.
York: Right! You nailed it. It’s about getting people talking about it. It
really is about communication. I remember when I was going to the bathroom
when I was 14 1/2 and all this was happening to me, I didn’t say anything to
anybody because it was embarrassing and had I said something early, who
knows how my life would have been different. But, it turned out the way it
Digest: What else do you want people to know?
York: That Crohn’s and Colitis affects everyone. It has to do with
digestion, foods, sugars. There’s a lot of great information that can calm
people and that’s a great thing I learned about this disease — even though
it acts up, you have to use your head and just be calm. There’s only so much
you can control. Actually, there’s almost nothing you can control [laughs] — except relaxing. Things will unfold the way they unfold. Don’t stress because that goes into your body and affects your system, as well. Stress affects some people in their necks or it affects some people in their
stomachs. That was my case. I really held onto a lot of stuff, whether
Digest: Focus on positive is an important message to convey. It certainly changed your life for better.
York: You’re absolutely right. If I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have met
[wife] Vicki. Who knows where I’d be? Yes, I have ulcerative colitis but I’m
fine. I live a normal, healthy life but I do take medication and I do have
to watch it. And, I do go in for a colonoscopy.
Digest: Is there anything else you do to stay healthy?
York: You know what affects you in a good way, you know what affects you in
a bad way. I just turned 50 in December, and I bought this jug of aloe vera
juice. Now, it doesn’t taste very good but I mix it with pomegranate juice
and it’s weird but rarely, if ever, am I sick. I have to literally have
someone sneeze on my hand and then wipe my nose and then I’ll get that cold.
Last winter, my wife and daughter were sick. People around me were sick. But
aloe vera is a great plant. You get a cut or burn, you cut a leaf open and
put it on and it heals very quickly, so why wouldn’t it be good for your
system? It works for me. It makes me feel healthy. There are lots of little
things people can do to help themselves and feel better and feel good.
Digest: Any parting words?
York: Yes, thank you for doing this for the foundation. I truly appreciate.
I don’t reach people. You reach people. You affect people. Together, maybe
we can accomplish something.