An actor from the “Friends” television series has gone public about his battle with a deadly reproductive organ disease.
James Michael Tyler confirmed he suffers from stage-four prostate cancer.
“[I am not here to] announce there is going to be a ‘Friends’ movie,” he said in the video shared on YouTube. “Actually, I am here to let you know that in September of 2018 I was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer.”
Since the disease was diagnosed late, it had already spread to his bones, spine, and vital organs. Tyler completely lost control of his lower body, rendering him unable to walk, and he has to use a wheelchair.
“For my specific prognosis it is, of course, a stage four,” he can be heard saying. “[It is a] late stage cancer so, eventually, it is going to probably get (kill) me.”
Tyler played Central Perk cafe employee Gunther, who had an affection for Rachel Green (played by Jennifer Aniston) but frequently spoke sarcastically to other characters in the classic situation-comedy.
The actor revealed his doctor discovered the disease during an annual medical checkup. He informed his former producers and cast members about the health condition.
“I have been dealing with that diagnosis for almost the past three years,” he said. “David Schwimmer [who played Ross Geller] corresponded with me via Instagram … [and] they have been aware for a long time.”
Tyler initially thought he would recover but his condition deteriorated not long after the cancer mutated “right at the time of the pandemic.”
“I missed going in for a test, which was not a good thing,” he said. “The cancer decided to mutate … and so it has progressed.”
Tyler now wishes he asked for a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test sooner, and listened more to the advice of his “wonderful wife.”
“I would have gone in earlier, and it would have been hopefully caught earlier,” he said.
The actor has made it his mission to help at least one person take the PSA test and avoid suffering the same fate, even if there are no early symptoms.
“My goal this past year was to see my 59th birthday–I did that [and] my goal now is to help save at least one life,” he said. “Next time you go in for your basic exam or yearly check-up, please ask your doctor for a PSA test. If caught early [it is] 99 percent treatable.”
Tyler’s illness prevented him from participating in “Friends: The Reunion,” which aired on HBO during May 2021.
“It was bittersweet, honestly,” he said. “It was my decision not to be a part of that physically, basically because I did not want to bring a downer on them. That was a celebration of 20 years [and] I did not want to be like, ‘Oh and, by the way, Gunther has cancer.'”
He tries to cope with different forms of treatment through using his “good sense of humor.”
“It has made me, personally, just realize how important every moment is–every day,” he said. “Do not give up, keep fighting, keep yourself as light as possible–have goals [and] set goals.”