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Friends star James Michael Tyler revealed that he is undergoing chemotherapy treatment for prostate cancer.
The 59-year-old actor shared the news during a Monday appearance on the Today show, where he explained that he was first diagnosed at 56, and has “been dealing with that diagnosis for almost the past three years.”
“I was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, which had spread to my bones,” Tyler told co-host Craig Melvin. “It’s stage 4, late-stage cancer, so eventually, it’s gonna probably get me.”
Tyler is known for playing Gunther, Rachel’s (Jennifer Aniston) sarcastic one-time boss and the manager of the Central Perk coffee house, in all 10 seasons of the NBC sitcom. He has also made guest appearances in Episodes, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Scrubs and Just Shoot Me!
Tyler’s prostate cancer was detected in September 2018 during a routine physical through a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. While he was initially treated through hormone therapy, which he said “worked amazingly for the first year,” the cancer mutated and spread to his spine during the pandemic, eventually leading to paraplegia.
“I missed going in for a test, which was not a good thing,” Tyler said.
According to the actor, the producers have been aware of his diagnosis “for a long time,” while members of the cast, including David Schwimmer, “at this point” know.
During his Today show appearance, Tyler also elaborated on why he appeared via Zoom instead of in-person for the long-awaited Friends reunion special, which debuted on HBO Max in May. The actor shared that there were initial plans “to be on the stage, at least, with them, and be able to take part in all the festivities,” but that he opted to go virtual due to the extent of his condition.
“It was bittersweet, honestly. I was very happy to be included,” Tyler said. “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, who told Today that he caught his diagnosis late, said that if he’d done anything differently, he “would have gone in earlier and, you know, would’ve been hopefully caught earlier.”
“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.”
Tyler said that his diagnosis and ongoing treatment hasn’t been “an easy process,” and that he doesn’t “want people to have to go through what I’ve been going through.”
“My goal this past year was to see my 59th birthday,” the actor said. “I did that. My goal now is to help at least save one life.”
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