Friends actor James Michael Tyler, who played Gunther in all 10 seasons of the show, has revealed he has been battling stage 4 prostate cancer.
The 59-year-old told the US Today Show that he was diagnosed back in September 2018 but it has since spread to other parts of his body, including his bones and spine, leaving his lower body paralysed.
Tyler, was the manager of Central Perk, where Jennifer Aniston’s character, Rachel, initially worked.
“I was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, which had spread to my bones,” he said. “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.
Tragically, Tyler said the covid pandemic meant his missed a regular check with doctors, during which time the cancer started “mutating”.
He said many of his former Friends castmates were aware of his health battle an that his chemotherapy treatment meant he couldn’t appear the Friends reunion last month.
“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,” Tyler 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 said his cancer was not caught early and was only detected during a routine check up three years ago. The cancer then started to spread to his bones and spine, which led to him being paralysed in his lower body.
He said he sets little goals for himself – the latest one being that he wants to use his battle to encourage other men to get checked.
“It’s made me, personally, just realise how important every moment is, every day,” Tyler said. “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.
“That’s my only reason for coming out like this and letting people know … That’s my new role,” he said. “Next time you go in for just a basic exam or your yearly check-up, please ask your doctor for a PSA test. It’s easily detectable.”