James Michael Tyler, Who Played Gunther on ‘Friends,’ Has Stage 4 Cancer


James Michael Tyler, who played Gunther on Friends, revealed on Monday, June 21, he’s battling stage IV prostate cancer.

“I was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, which had spread to my bones,” Tyler told Today.“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 his doctors first caught the disease during a regular checkup. “I was 56 years old at the time, and they screen for PSA, which is prostate-specific antigen,” he said. “That came back at an extraordinarily high number. So I knew immediately when I went online and I saw the results of my blood test and blood work that there was obviously something quite wrong there. Nearly immediately, my doctor called me and said, ‘Hey, I need you to come in tomorrow because I suspect that you may have quite a serious problem with your prostate.’”

Hormone therapy and other drugs “worked amazingly for about a year,” Tyler said, and allowed him to lead a “pretty much normal” life. However, the cancer eventually spread to his bones and spine, paralyzing him from the waist down. The mutation happened just as the pandemic began, leading Tyler to miss an important test. And while he’s now on chemotherapy to fight the disease, he’s using his platform to emphasize early screenings and intervention. “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…. A lot of men, if they catch this early, it’s easily treatable…. I don’t want people to have to go through what I’ve been going through. This is not…an easy process.”

James Michael Tyler said that although some of the Friends cast and producers were aware of his illness, he chose not to appear on stage during the HBO Max reunion in order to keep everything “lighthearted.”

“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,” he 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 is also working on bringing lightness into his personal life. “It’s made me, personally, just realize how important every moment is, every day,” the actor said of his illness. “And fighting. 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.”


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