James Michael Tyler, who portrayed Central Perk coffee shop employee Gunther on Friends, revealed his Stage 4 prostate cancer diagnosis on Monday’s Today.
The 59-year-old actor explained that he had first been diagnosed in September 2018, after the cancer had already spread to his bones.
“It’s stage 4. Late stage cancer,” he said. “So eventually, you know, it’s gonna probably get me.”
Tyler initially went on hormone therapy, which “worked amazingly for about a year,” but the cancer mutated during the pandemic, spreading to his spine and causing lower body paralysis. His condition was partially why Tyler chose to appear over Zoom, rather than in person, for HBO Max’s recent Friends reunion.
“It was bittersweet, honestly,” he said of the reunion. “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.’”
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The producers of the show had been aware of his cancer diagnosis “for a long time,” Tyler said, and he has kept up an Instagram correspondence with fellow Friends actor David Schwimmer since the initial screening.
Tyler is currently undergoing aggressive chemotherapy treatment for his illness. Praising his wife for her “absolute strength,” he said that he wished he had listened to her when she first urged him to go for a checkup.
“Next time you go in for just a basic exam or your yearly checkup, please ask your doctor for a PSA test,” Tyler stated. “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 added, “My goal this past year was to see my 59th birthday. I did that. My goal now is to help save at least one life.”
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