'Friends' fan favourite James Michael Tyler has stage 4 prostate cancer

By Heather Cichowski

In very sad news for Friends fans, James Michael Tyler, known for playing Gunther on the series, has revealed he has stage 4 prostate cancer.

The actor shared the news about his health struggles on the Today show on June 21. The 59-year-old opened up about his ordeal, saying he received his cancer diagnosis in 2018. Last year, Michael found out during a routine physical the illness had spread to his bones. Sadly, the prostate cancer has progressed to stage 4 and he can no longer walk.

"I'm sorry to say that I'm not appearing with you today to announce that there's going to be a Friends movie. Actually, I'm here to let you know that in September 2018, I was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, which had spread to my bones,” Michael said to Today's Craig Melvin.

"I've been dealing with that diagnosis for almost the past three years. … It's stage 4 (now). Late stage cancer."

In the emotional interview, Michael recounted his treatment and how he thought it had "worked amazingly for about a year." He was previously treated with hormone therapy and is now undergoing chemotherapy.

"All I had to do was take a pill in the morning and the night, and boom, life was pretty much normal," he recounted. "I was feeling fine, honestly. I had no symptoms, I didn't feel any symptoms. And it was very easy to regulate."

But the cancer had spread to Michael's bones around the time the coronavirus pandemic started, and he missed going to a test. The star is now experiencing paralysis in the lower half of his body.

"I missed going in for a test, which was not a good thing," he revealed. "So the cancer decided to mutate at the time of the pandemic, and so it's progressed."

The actor was able to appear via Zoom on the recent Friends: The Reunion special on HBO Max. Michael revealed the Friends cast should be aware of his prostate cancer diagnosis now, and the producers have known for awhile. He said David Schwimmer has reached out to him on Instagram.

James Michael Tyler as Gunther and David Schwimmer as Ross Geller in the Friends episode "The One Where Emma Cries," which first aired in 2002. Photo by: Danny Feld/NBCU Photo Bank

"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," Michael said of the reunion special. "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 explained. "... I didn't want to be like, 'Oh, and by the way, Gunther has cancer.'"

The actor, who played Central Perk's manager for 10 seasons, is speaking out about his diagnosis to raise awareness about prostate cancer and prevention.

"There are other options available to men if they catch it before me," Michael implored. "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.

"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.”

Michael is hopeful he can save just one life by raising awareness and encouraging men to get a simple PSA test with their yearly physicals.

"It's made me, personally, just realize how important every moment is, every day," he said. "And fighting. Don't give up. Keep fighting. Keep yourself as light as possible. And have goals. Set goals."

We are sending Michael our thoughts and wishes.

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