Actor James Michael Tyler — best known as the manager of Central Perk and Rachel's admirer on the hit sitcom Friends — has revealed he is battling stage 4 prostate cancer.
The beloved 59-year-old actor discussed his heartbreaking diagnosis during an appearance on NBC's Today Show on Monday, June 21.
"In September of 2018, I was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, which had spread to my bones," he told host Craig Melvin. According to Tyler, doctors discovered his cancer during a routine physical when he was 56 years old, and he was treated with hormone therapy.
The Mississippi native said his disease started "mutating" during the coronavirus pandemic, causing tumors up and down his spine. "I've been dealing with that diagnosis for almost the past three years. It's stage 4 late-stage cancer," he confessed, revealing he can no longer walk. "So eventually, you know, it's gonna probably get me."
He is currently undergoing chemotherapy.
Last month, Tyler made an appearance via Zoom on the Friends: The Reunion special, which aired on HBO Max. The star — who played Gunther for 10 years on the iconic 90's sitcom — explained that he still wanted to be part of the event, even if not in-person.
"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. 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 said. "... I didn't want to be like, 'Oh, and by the way, Gunther has cancer.''"
When asked whether the cast already knew about his illness, he said the show's producers had been aware "for a long time" and that David Schwimmer had corresponded with him on Instagram.
Despite the heartbreaking diagnosis, he said his goal is to "help save at least one life by coming out with this news" and encouraging people to get a PSA screening — a prostate-specific antigen test — to detect the disease early on.
"There are other options available to men if they catch it before me. Next time you go in for just a basic exam or your yearly check-up, 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," he said.
"It's made me, personally, just realize how important every moment is, every day," he added. "And fighting. Don't give up. Keep fighting. Keep yourself as light as possible. And have goals. Set goals."