Tyler Played Gunther for 10 Seasons on'Friends'
- ‘Friends’ star James Michael Tyler, who played Gunther for 10 seasons on the NBC sitcom, revealed chemo has helped bring his PSA count down in his prostate cancer battle. The prostate-specific antigen is a protein secreted by the prostate gland. Large amounts in the blood can be a sign of cancer.
- The 59-year-old actor revealed last month that he had been diagnosed with stage IV prostate cancer after he did not attend the Friends reunion in person.
- Tyler chose to keep his cancer battle private at first because it is deeply personal and only you determine who has the right and privilege to know about your diagnosis.
Tyler, who is battling stage IV prostate cancer, wrote that his level of prostate-specific antigens was decreasing in an Instagram post, saying: “Still here. Still #fighting. …[M]y PSA is decreasing so the chemo is helping.”Read More
Tyler and his wife, Jennifer Carno, have been hard at work raising money for the cause, with Carno using her Facebook page to post last month: “Many wonderful friends have asked how they can help…We must get the word out about early detection of prostate cancer. If you’re black or have a family history (mom with breast cancer, dad/uncles/siblings with prostate cancer) and you have a prostate, please get your PSA checked starting at 40. Everyone else at 45. It used to be 55, but that’s not soon enough.”
She then included a link to a fundraiser for the Prostate Cancer Foundation which has already received thousands of dollars from fans.
“Thank you! Thank you! Absolutely overwhelmed by everyone’s kindness, love, prayers, and also your generosity to @prostatecancerfoundation . We can feel your positive energy,” wrote Tyler on social media after seeing the donations.
SurvivorNet reported back in June that Tyler chose not to attend the recent Friends Reunion or share the news that he had been diagnosed with cancer because he did not want to ruin the night for his famous co-stars.
“He did not [bring up his cancer diagnosis] because he did not want to take the attention off the celebration. This is why we waited,” the actor’s friend and manager Toni Benson told SurvivorNet.
Tyler did not attend the reunion in person either, opting instead to appear via video chat from his home. That is where he currently spends most of his days in a wheelchair as a result of the paralysis that developed in his legs when his cancer spread to his spine.
None of this dampened Tyler’s mood though, as he called his time on the show “the 10 most memorable years of my life.” In total, Tyler appeared on 148 episodes of Friends, more than any other guest actor.
“I could not have imagined a better experience. All these guys were fantastic. It was just a joy to work with them,” added Tyler at the reunion.
Fans were quick to realize something was amiss especially since every other person who made a cameo on the special appeared in person. That mystery was solved shortly after when Tyler appeared on Today.
“I was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, which had spread to my bones,” Tyler told host Craig Melvin.
“It’s stage 4. Late stage cancer. So eventually, you know, it’s gonna probably get me.”
He revealed that he was diagnosed at 56 after a routine screening came back with an alarmingly high number of antigens. He was quick to seek treatment, however, and noted how easy it all was in the early days.
“All I had to do was take a pill in the morning and the night, and boom, life was pretty much normal,” said Tyler. He even appeared on Today to talk about Friends a year into his treatment.
“I was feeling fine, honestly. I had no symptoms, I didn’t feel any symptoms. And it was very easy to regulate,” the actor said.
The next thing he knew, the cancer had mutated and spread. What’s worse, he was late to learn about those developments because he had skipped a scheduled check-up.
Now, he is using his celebrity to encourage other men to get checked for cancer.
“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 checkup, please ask your doctor for a PSA test. It’s easily detectable,” urged Tyler.
He then used himself as a cautionary tale, explaining: “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.”
Prostate Cancer Screening
In the United States, most prostate cancer cases are caught with screening examinations. Screening guidelines depend on your risk for the disease. The American Cancer Society cites age, race/ethnicity, geography, family history and gene changes as main risk factors for prostate cancer. It’s important to talk with your doctor regardless, but here are some things to consider when gauging your risk for the disease, according to the American Cancer Society:
- Men younger than 40 are less likely to get prostate cancer, but age-related risk quickly rises after age 50. Approximately six of ten cases of prostate cancer are found in men older than 65.
- Prostate cancer develops more often in African-American men and in Caribbean men of African ancestry than in men of other races, and these men tend to develop the disease at a younger age.
- Prostate cancer is most common in North America, northwestern Europe, Australia and on Caribbean islands. It is less common in Asia, Africa, Central America and South America. The reasons for this risk factor are unclear, but more intensive screening and lifestyle differences like diet might be contributing factors.
- Most prostate cancers occur in men without a family history of the disease, but it’s still important to look at your family history because prostate cancer does seem to run in some families. Having a father or brother with prostate cancer, for instance, more than doubles a man’s risk of developing the disease with a higher risk for men with a brother with prostate cancer than those with a father who have it. The risk is also especially high if a man has several affected relatives that developed the cancer at a younger age.
- Inherited gene changes, or mutations, like that of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes can also elevate risk, but this probably accounts for a small percentage of overall cases.
Screening for prostate cancer generally involves a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test and a digital rectal exam.
“It’s slightly uncomfortable but painless, and takes less than 30 seconds,” Dr. Posadas says. “The amount of information that is gained from that is tremendous, and it can be a life-and-death type decision that is made.”
But it’s important to note that the PSA test is not perfect. The prostate-specific antigen is a protein secreted by the prostate gland. Men have a small amount of PSA in their blood all the time, but large amounts can be a sign of cancer because when cancer cells grow, PSA spills into the blood.
Keeping a Cancer Battle Private
Health is a deeply personal matter, and it’s up to you – and you alone – to determine who has the right and privilege to know about your diagnoses. A recent essay written by Ina Jaffe underscored this point. “By the way, I have no issue with people who want to keep their cancer diagnosis a secret to the end. If you have the misfortune to have cancer, you get to have it any way you want,” wrote the NPR host.
Jaffe wrote of her decision that keeping her cancer diagnosis a secret “served me well.” Doing so meant that she “didn’t have to explain myself to friends and strangers while I was still in the hysterical stage,” she writes. Detailing the mental and emotional toll of her diagnosis, Jaffe says she stopped sleeping and eating, and she cried a lot. “I was grieving for my own life,” she says.
Contributing: Anne McCarthy