On Monday morning, Friends actor James Michael Tyler opened up about his lengthy cancer battle to Today. Tyler, who played Central Perk manager Gunther on the beloved sitcom, shared his stage-four prostate-cancer diagnosis for the first time since being diagnosed in September 2018 following a routine physical. “I was 56 years old at the time, and they screen for PSA, which is prostate-specific antigen,” he told Today’s Craig Melvin. “That came back at an extraordinarily high number. So, I knew immediately when I went online and I saw the results of my blood test and blood work that there was obviously something quite wrong there.”
“Nearly immediately, my doctor called me and said, ‘Hey, I need you to come in tomorrow because I suspect that you may have quite a serious problem with your prostate,’” the actor explains. After additional testing, prostate cancer was confirmed and it was determined that the illness was genetic, not environmental. “For my specific prognosis, it’s of course stage four,” said Tyler. “Late-stage cancer. So eventually, you know, it’s gonna probably get me.”
While hormone therapy “worked amazingly” at first, says Tyler, the cancer soon spread to his bones and spine, leading to paralysis of the lower body. The actor notes that he missed a test, “so the cancer decided to mutate at the time of the pandemic, and so it’s progressed.” He is currently undergoing chemotherapy, which affected the”bittersweet” decision to “not to be a part of [the Friends reunion] physically and make an appearance on Zoom, basically, because I didn’t wanna bring a downer on it,” he added.
Now, however, Tyler feels optimistic that sharing his illness will create good. “There are other options available to men if they catch it before me,” Tyler advises. “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.”