NEW YORK (CBS 2) — Colon cancer is the number two cancer killer in the United States, with only lung cancer affecting more people, but it’s very curable and even preventable – if you get screened early and often.

CBS 2’s Max Gomez spoke to someone who learned that lesson the hard way – a musician who’s channeling his inner “Beatle.”

On stage, he’s a rock star, playing the part of George Harrison. Backstage and behind the scenes, however, he’s 58-year-old Mark Vaccacio, and he’s dying from terminal colon cancer.

“Do I have terminal cancer? Yes I do. Am I dying tomorrow? No, I’m not,” Vaccacio said.

About one year ago, doctors found two tumors – one the size of a softball – in Vaccacio’s colon. He felt no pain, and only suffered a loss of appetite.

Now, Vaccacio said he also suffers a growing anger with himself for not doing his part to stay healthy. With a family history of the disease, the Beatles impersonator said he should have known better.

“I was a bonehead to not keep up with my colonoscopies, and as a result…this will kill me,” he said.

Life is very different these days for Vaccacio. He wears an ileostomy bag that has to be emptied immediately before and after shows, and he has an IV line in his right arm for a saline drip that keeps him hydrated.

On stage, though, when the music starts to surge through him, Vaccacio said it’s all worth it.

“Once you get up there, you’re in your own cocoon, and it’s lovely,” he said.

Vaccacio said that while the cancer is killing him, the disease has given his life new purpose, and the chance to hopefully save others.

“I’m on a quest now to tell people, ‘get your colonoscopy,’” he said. “I’ve had a great life, but if I can help at the very end here, I’ll die more at peace.”

Vaccacio has already saved one life. His sister, Francine Mellusi, was inspired to get checked, and doctors found small tumors in her colon just in time.

“I am so proud of him,” Mellusi said. “I can’t believe the strength that he has shown throughout all of this.”

Vaccacio’s daughter said this year has been surreal, and watching her father perform has proven bittersweet.

“We knew that we had to get him back on stage, because we felt that that’s where he belongs,” Christina Vaccacio said.

“When you put the suit on, put the wig on, and you’re portraying this great, great Beatles music – the Beatles, beautiful music they made – it’s an honor, it’s an honor,” Vaccacio said.

Colon cancer doesn’t cause any symptoms until it’s pretty far along. The American Cancer Society recommends that most people have screening tests beginning at age 50.

Those who have a family history of colon cancer or polyps, or have inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s disease or colitis, should ask their doctor about starting screenings earlier.

The Beatles show is called “Strawberry Fields,” and it’s held every Saturday at noon at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in Times Square.

Dr. Max Gomez

Comments (6)
  1. Steven J Spinner says:

    I heard the news today on the radio of Mark’s passing. It saddened me so so very much. I always listened to Strawberry Fields and especially enjoyed Mark’s music. I saw Mark and the band play at the Brick House Brewery in Patchogue, NY and even brought my young daughter who danced and danced to their music. I know too many people, relatives and friends,that have died from this dreadful disease. I urge everyone to regularly go for checkups, as they are not a big deal and painless. Mark will be missed by all. My heart goes out to his family and I pray for them.

  2. Rich Gomez says:

    I worked with Mark many years ago at the Winter Garden Theater and he was always inspiring becasue he has an energy that is unstopable. I salute you Mark for the courage you’ve shown and – yes – I just had my latest colonoscopy last week with everything being fine. Please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers – your old friend – Richie Gomez

  3. Thank you. Mark, for using your voice to make more people aware. If others reading this have an ostomy and need support, please know that the United Ostomy Associations of America has support groups all over the country (and of course in New York as well). Find a full list at and visit our discussion board too, for 24/7 support online.

  4. Ashley Engelman says:

    Mark should be proud… somewhere, someone is reading this and reaching for their phone to schedule a colon cancer screening. He’s probably saving lives without even knowing it. Not many people can say that.

  5. Alison Spitzer says:

    Another great article: hope to see you soon…until that day, Rock on my friend!

  6. Marta Silva Cofresi says:

    Para todas las personas que nunca se hayan hecho una colonoscopia, estan a tiempo todavia, leanse esto!

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