By Terry Miller
Celebrating his 50th year as a professional actor, Michael York, OBE, visited Pasadena Tuesday evening to discuss his recent fight with Amyloidosis, a rare and often misdiagnosed disease that connected him to the Fink family locally. This is the first time York has spoken publicly in the States about the disease that took a serious toll on the popular actor’s life.
“It all began two years ago, when I was doing a mini-series with Tom Conti,” he says. “I noticed I was getting dark circles under my eyes. At first, I was able to cover them up with make-up which for an actor is pretty normal, but it got worse and was really becoming evident, so I had to wear dark glasses.,” York said.
York was diagnosed with bone cancer. However, doctors later concluded that he was, in fact, suffering from amyloidosis, a blood disorder that deposits abnormal proteins throughout the body. It breaks down tissue and is often fatal.
On Tuesday York united with the Fink family to bring greater awareness to this disease before attending a private screening of his critically acclaimed work, Cabaret, now celebrating its 40th anniversary.
The Pasadena Sandwich Company has been a fixture in Pasadena since 1995 as a family owned and operated business. Steve Fink learned the deli business from his parents in the 1950’s before opening his own for the Pasadena lunch crowd so he could be home for family dinners. Steve was diagnosed with Amyloidosis in 2009, so late in the lifespan of the disease that his treatment options were limited and he succumbed to the disease in 2010.
Steven Fink is survived by his four children: Meghan, Kaytee, Nicole and Jonathan, all whom came together to run the restaurant and establish the Stephen E. Fink Memorial Fund to bring greater awareness, research and treatment to Amyloidosis. They also created a sandwich called “The Big Steve” in memory of their dad and all proceeds are donated into this fund.
It was fate that brought York and Meghan Fink together to bring awareness to this cause. York was finally diagnosed in 2011, after being misdiagnosed, and last year underwent a successful stem cell transplant at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.
Amyloidosis is a disease that occurs when substances called amyloid proteins build up in the body’s organs. Amyloid is an abnormal protein usually produced by cells in your bone marrow that can be deposited in any tissue or organ.
Amyloidosis can affect different organs in different people, and there are different types of amyloid. Amyloidosis frequently affects the heart, kidneys, liver, spleen, nervous system and gastrointestinal tract, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Amyloidosis is rare, and the exact cause is often unknown. Treatments are available to help you manage your symptoms of amyloidosis and limit the production of amyloid protein.
During our interview, York apologized for wearing dark glasses but said that his eyes were still recovering from the stem cell surgery. He then produced some images his wife Pat took for the Mayo clinic… puffy and swollen, his eyes looked like those of a “prizefighter,” he quipped.
Along with his wife and Pat of 45 years, York told a small group of reporters “ Healing is a marvelous mystery…” “Pat has done a lot of research about Amyloidosis and stem cell replacement therapy,” he added. “I even sought out a healer in Brazil,” York said. “ We wore white and everything…I sought out this chap called John of God” York said in his eloquent English accent.
Referring to a remote corner of Brazil, the man known as John of God is apparently changing people’s lives in astonishing ways and York believes that this man, may have played a noteworthy role in his recovery process. For 52 years and counting, miracles of this sort have been happening around this unassuming Brazilian, who takes no credit for them. “I have never healed anybody. It is God who heals,” he says. York said that John of God was recently featured on “Oprah”… “so now everyone knows of him,” he said with a broad smile.
Lending his celebrity to the Finks’ extraordinary fundraising efforts to find a cure, York hugged Meghan and Kaytee Fink repeatedly while commending them on their strength and courage after their father passed away in 2010 from Amyloidosis. The two sisters gave York a hat bearing the Pasadena Sandwich Company logo which he immediately donned for photographers declaring “ I’m very proud to wear it…thank you Meghan and Kaytee.”
York attributes his strong recovery to his positive attitude, his remarkable wife Pat and the doctor at the Mayo Clinic, who performed the surgery last July using York’s own stem cells.
After feeling well again, just over a year since surgery York recently appeared on stage in London singing and dancing in ‘My Fair Lady.’
York who has had leading roles in everything from Cabaret to Logan’s Run to Austin Powers has more than 50 movie credits to his name, several Emmy nominations for his television work and numerous Broadway performances. Additionally, he has narrated numerous documentaries and extensive radio work.
York’s advice to anyone suffering from this rare disease, or any other for that matter, “ Never give up.”