James Michael Tyler, Gunther on 'Friends,' reveals battling Stage 4 prostate cancer

Actor was optimistic at first but during the pandemic his cancer mutated.

Entertainment Desk June 22, 2021

James Michael Tyler, who played the Central Perk employee Gunther on Friends, has revealed he has been diagnosed with Stage 4 prostate cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy, reported USA Today.

Tyler, 59, opened up about his battle with the disease for the first time during his appearance on the Today show on Monday.

"I'm sorry to say that I'm not appearing today with you to announce that there's a Friends film," Tyler said. "Actually, I'm here to let you know that in September of 2018, I was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer."

Tyler had also hoped to attend HBO Max's Friends Reunion last month; however, he explained he was only able to appear virtually due to his health.

"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. It was my decision not to be a part of that physically and make an appearance on Zoom because I didn't want to bring a downer, you know? I didn't want to be like, 'Oh, and by the way, Gunther has cancer.'"

Tyler went on to reveal the show’s producers knew about his diagnosis and have been aware for a long time, while cast members like David Schwimmer have "corresponded” with him over Instagram.

Doctors first discovered Tyler’s cancer during a routine physical, in which he took his first prostate specific antigen (PSA) test. During his early days he was "optimistic” but according to Tyler, the cancer mutated during the pandemic, spreading to his bones and spine, resulting in an inability to walk.

"It's Stage 4, late stage cancer, so eventually, it's going to probably get me," Tyler said, adding that he wished he had gotten tested sooner. "I would've listened to my wonderful wife, who has been my absolute strength throughout all of this," a teary-eyed Gunther responded.

Asked if he would do anything differently, he said, "I would have gone in earlier and would've hopefully been caught earlier. Next time you go in for a basic exam or your yearly checkup, please ask your doctor for a PSA test. Caught early, (it's) 99% treatable."

Holding back his tears, Tyler hoped his story can "save even one life" as he encourages others to get screened. "My goal this past year was to see my 59th birthday. I did that, May 28th," he said. "My goal now is to help save at least one life by coming out with this news."

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