Friends actor James Michael Tyler, who played Gunther in the hit series, has revealed he has been battling stage 4 prostate cancer.
The 59-year-old told NBC’s Today on Monday that he was diagnosed back in September 2018 but it has since spread to other parts of his body, including his bones and spine.
Tyler, who appeared in all 10 seasons of Friends as the manager of the Central Perk coffee shop, can no longer walk after the aggressive cancer left his lower body paralyzed.
‘I was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, which had spread to my bones,’ Tyler said.
‘I’ve been dealing with that diagnosis for almost the past three years… It’s stage 4. Late stage cancer. So eventually, you know, it’s gonna probably get me.’
Tyler said doctors were optimistic when he was first diagnosed but the cancer started ‘mutating’ at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Friends actor James Michael Tyler, who played Gunther, told NBC’s Today on Monday that he was diagnosed with prostate cancer back in 2018 but it has now spread to other parts of his body
The 59-year-old told NBC’s Today on Monday that he was diagnosed back in 2018 but it has since spread to other parts of his body. He is pictured above as Gunther in Friends with Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry
‘I missed going in for a test, which was not a good thing,’ Tyler said. ‘So the cancer decided to mutate at the time of the pandemic and so it’s progressed.’
Tyler, who is currently undergoing chemotherapy, said his illness stopped him from appearing in person for Friends: The Reunion, which aired last month on HBO.
He made an appearance via Zoom instead.
‘I wanted to be a part of that, and initially I was going to be on the stage, at least, with them, and be able to take part in all the festivities,’ Tyler said.
‘It was bittersweet, honestly. I was very happy to be included. It was my decision not to be a part of that physically and make an appearance on Zoom, basically, because I didn’t wanna bring a downer on it, you know? I didn’t want to be like, ‘Oh, and by the way, Gunther has cancer’.’
Tyler said that many of his former castmates, as well as the show’s producers, are aware he has been battling cancer.
Tyler said his cancer was not caught early and was only detected during a routine check up three years ago.
Initially, doctors treated his cancer with hormone therapy.
Tyler said the aggressive cancer, which he was diagnosed with in 2018, has left his lower body paralyzed. He is pictured above in his wheelchair and back brace
Tyler said the aggressive cancer has left his lower body paralyzed. He said the cancer was not caught early and was only detected during a routine check up three years ago
Tyler, who is currently undergoing chemotherapy, said his illness stopped him from appearing in person for Friends: The Reunion, which aired last month on HBO. He made an appearance via Zoom instead (pictured above)
He said that course of treatment ‘worked amazingly for about a year’ and allowed him to live his life normally because he had to take three drugs regularly.
‘All I had to do was take a pill in the morning and the night, and boom, life was pretty much normal,’ he said.
During that time, he made TV appearances, including another Friends reunion on NBC.
‘I had it then, but (was) able to function normally… I was feeling fine, honestly. I had no symptoms, I didn’t feel any symptoms. And it was very easy to regulate,’ he said.
The cancer then started to spread to his bones and spine, which led to him being paralyzed in his lower body.
He said the cancer became a lot harder to deal with once it had spread to his bones.
‘A lot of men, if they catch this early, it’s easily treatable,’ Tyler said. ‘I don’t want people to have to go through what I’ve been going through. This is not… an easy process.’
Tyler appeared in all 10 seasons of Friends as the manager of the Central Perk coffee shop
Tyler said that many of his former castmates, as well as the show’s producers, are aware he has been battling cancer. He is pictured above on the show with David Schwimmer
He is encouraging men to ask their doctor for a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test even if they aren’t showing any symptoms.
‘There are other options available to men if they catch it before me,’ Tyler said. ‘Next time you go in for just a basic exam or your yearly checkup, please ask your doctor for a PSA test. It’s easily detectable.
‘If it spreads beyond the prostate to the bones, which is most prevalent in my form, it can be a lot more difficult to deal with.’
He said he is using his ‘good sense of humor’ to help him cope with treatment and that he sets himself goals to get through it.
‘It’s made me, personally, just realize how important every moment is, every day,’ Tyler said.
‘Don’t give up. Keep fighting. Keep yourself as light as possible. And have goals. Set goals. My goal this past year was to see my 59th birthday. I did that, May 28th. My goal now is to help save at least one life by coming out with this news.
‘That’s my only reason for coming out like this and letting people know… That’s my new role.’