"Eventually, you know, it's gonna probably get me"
James Michael Tyler, the actor who played Central Perk employee Gunther on "Friends" throughout the show's run, just revealed his Stage 4 prostate cancer diagnosis on "TODAY."
The actor, 59, says he was diagnosed with prostate cancer which had spread to his bones in September 2018. "It's stage 4 [now]. Late stage cancer," he added. "So eventually, you know, it's gonna probably get me."
Actor James Michael Tyler (@slate_michael) played Gunther on “Friends” for 10 years, but he was unable to attend the recent cast reunion in person because he’s been battling a serious health issue. Now he’s sharing his news for the first time with @craigmelvin. pic.twitter.com/272tg4Sbvc
Tyler said his diagnosis was partly why he appeared via Zoom at the recent "Friends" reunion on HBO Max, saying initially he was supposed to make a cameo in person.
"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?" he said. "I didn't want to be like, 'Oh, and by the way, Gunther has cancer.'"
When asked whether his former costars knew, he said he has been corresponding with David Schwimmer on Instagram and the show's producers have "been aware for a long time" of his prognosis.
"I was 56 years old at the time, and they screen for PSA, which is prostate-specific antigen," Tyler explained, detailing when he first found out. "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.'"
He went on hormone therapy, which "worked amazingly for about a year," but during the pandemic the cancer mutated. It eventually spread to his bones and spine, leading to lower body paralysis. "I missed going in for a test, which was not a good thing," he explained. "So the cancer decided to mutate at the time of the pandemic, and so it's progressed."
He's currently undergoing aggressive chemotherapy and praised his wife for being his "absolute strength" throughout his battle. He said he wished he listened to her and gone in for a checkup earlier, before urging others to get a PSA test.
"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," he said. "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."
"My goal this past year was to see my 59th birthday. I did that," he concluded. "My goal now is to help save at least one life."