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‘Friends’ star reveals Stage 4 prostate cancer diagnosis

James Michael Tyler, 59, publicly opened up about his cancer battle for the first time while appearing on the ”Today” show Monday. 

A man in a dark blue button down and olive green baseball cap sits on an orange couch in a coffee shop. He’s holding a black mug with both hands.
James Michael Tyler sits on an orange couch in a Central Park coffeehouse.
Jennifer S. Altman/USA Today

James Michael Tyler, who played the Central Perk employee Gunther on “Friends,” revealed he is undergoing chemotherapy treatment after being diagnosed with Stage 4 prostate cancer.

The actor, 59, publicly opened up about his cancer battle for the first time while appearing on the ”Today” show Monday.

“I’m sorry to say that I’m not appearing today with you to announce that there’s a ‘Friends’ movie,” Tyler said. ”Actually, I’m here to let you know that in September of 2018, I was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer.”

Though Tyler had hoped to attend HBO Max’s “Friends” reunion last month in-person, he explained he was only able to appear virtually due to his health.

“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 explained. “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 noted that producers knew about his diagnosis and have “been aware for a long time,” and added that cast members such as David Schwimmer have “corresponded with me via Instagram.”

According to Tyler, doctors first discovered his cancer during a routine physical, in which he took his first prostate specific antigen (PSA) test. Though his early days were “optimistic,” Tyler said the cancer mutated during the pandemic, spreading to his bones and spine, resulting in his inability to walk.

“It’s Stage 4, late stage cancer, so eventually, it’s gonna probably get me,” Tyler said, adding that he wished he had gotten tested sooner.

“I would’ve listened to my wonderful wife, who has been my absolute strength throughout all of this,” a teary-eyed Tyler responded when asked if he would do anything differently. “I would have gone in earlier and would’ve hopefully been caught earlier. Next time you go in for a basic exam or your yearly check up, please ask your doctor for a PSA test. Caught early, (it’s) 99% treatable.”

While holding back tears, Tyler said he hopes his story will “save just one life” as he encourages others to get screened.

“My goal this past year was to see my 59th birthday. I did that, May 28th,” he said. ”My goal now is to help save at least one life by coming out with this news.”