James Michael Tyler, popularly known for playing Gunther on Friends, revealed he’s battling stage four prostate cancer. And this is why he couldn’t attend the Friends reunion, which aired in May.
Gunther was an important part of the sitcom and appeared in all its 10 seasons. James Michael Tyler’s absence from the reunion special came as quite a shock. Little did fans know that there was a big tragic reason behind it.
James Michael Tyler opens up about his prostate cancer: “It’s gonna probably get me”
Speaking on NBC’s Today show, the actor revealed his diagnosis and when the illness developed. Tyler said that his illness wasn’t caught soon enough — and had spread to other parts before they diagnosed him.
“I was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, which had spread to my bones,” Friends‘ Gunther star explained. “I’ve been dealing with that diagnosis for almost the past three years. It’s stage 4 (now). Late stage cancer.”
“So eventually, you know, it’s gonna probably get me,” the actor said.
Doctors discovered the illness during a routine checkup. “I was 56 years old at the time, and they screen for PSA, which is prostate-specific antigen,” Tyler explained.
“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.”
The TV actor added how his doctors were optimistic about his recovery at first. “All I had to do was take a pill in the morning and the night, and boom, life was pretty much normal,” he said.
“[I 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.”
But then the cancer started “mutating” — right around the pandemic. It eventually spread to his bones and spine, leading to paralysis of the lower body.
“I missed going in for a test, which was not a good thing,” the actor said. “So the cancer decided to mutate at the time of the pandemic, and so it’s progressed.”
Speaking about the Friends reunion, he said –
Tyler said he initially planned on attending the reunion. However, he decided against it because he didn’t want to put a damper on the occasion.
“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. The actor said it was “bittersweet” but he 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.'”
The star is currently undergoing intense chemotherapy. Despite going through so much, he wanted to share his story to encourage people to get screened timely.
“A lot of men, if they catch this early, it’s easily treatable,” he said. “I don’t want people to have to go through what I’ve been going through. This is not… an easy process.”
Stressing on his message to “save just one life”, he said, “that’s my only reason for coming out like this and letting people know.” “That’s my new role.”