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‘Friends’ star James Michael Tyler battling stage 4 prostate cancer

"Friends" Café - James Michael Tyler
James Michael Tyler

“Friends “star James Michael Tyler has been battling prostate cancer for three years.

The actor, who is best known for playing Central Perk owner Gunther in the sitcom, opened up about his illness in an interview on America’s Today show on Monday, revealing he was diagnosed following an annual check-up in 2018.

“I was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, which had spread to my bones,” Tyler explained. “It’s stage 4 (now). Late-stage cancer. So eventually, you know, it’s gonna probably get me.”

Tyler continued: “I was 56 years old at the time, and they screen for PSA, which is prostate-specific antigen. 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.”

After more tests with physician Dr Matthew Rettig, a research scientist and oncologist at UCLA, who determined the illness was genetic rather than environmental, Tyler, 59, began a course of hormone therapy, which “worked amazingly for about a year”.

“All I had to do was take a pill in the morning and the night, and boom, life was pretty much normal,” he said.

However, the cancer eventually spread to his bones and spine, leading to paraplegia, or paralysis of the lower body.

Tyler, who is currently undergoing chemotherapy, which is “aggressively” fighting the cancer, appeared on last month’s Friends reunion via Zoom because he didn’t want to “bring a downer” to the show by having to explain his illness 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,” he said. “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?… I didn’t want to be like, ‘Oh, and by the way, Gunther has cancer.'”

He also emphasised that screening and early diagnosis can help with better outcomes.

“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 added.

– Cover Media