‘Friends’ Star James Michael Tyler Dies at 59

By Pat Carragher - October 28, 2021

James Michael Tyler, best known for playing Gunther on the hit show “Friends,” has died. He was 59. Tyler passed away Sunday following a battle with prostate cancer, his manager said in a statement.

"The world knew him as Gunther (the seventh 'Friend'), from the hit series Friends, but Michael's loved ones knew him as an actor, musician, cancer-awareness advocate, and loving husband," the statement read. "Michael loved live music, cheering on his Clemson Tigers, and would often find himself in fun and unplanned adventures. If you met him once you made a friend for life."

Tyler revealed in June that he was diagnosed with the disease in September 2018.

"I was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, which had spread to my bones," said Tyler. "I've been dealing with that diagnosis for almost the past three years. It's stage 4. Late-stage cancer. So eventually, you know, it's going to probably get me."

Tyler said he was at an annual checkup when his cancer was first caught.

"I was 56 years old at the time, and they screen for PSA, which is prostate-specific antigen," he said. "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.'"

Aside from skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer affecting men. One in eight men will be diagnosed with the disease during his lifetime. Men ages 45 to 75 should have a conversation with their doctor about the risks and benefits of prostate cancer screening.

Dr. Julio Pow-Sang, Genitourinary Oncology Program

“Screening can save lives,” said Dr. Julio Pow-Sang, chair of the Genitourinary Oncology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center. “Especially in men with higher risk of not only having cancer, but aggressive cancer. The ones with family history of cancer, African Americans and the ones with genetic predisposition, such as BRCA 1 or Lynch syndrome, should talk to their doctor about getting screened.”

 The Prostate Cancer Foundation recommends African American men talk to their doctor about screening at age 40. 

Prostate cancer symptoms tend to develop in the later stages of the disease, however initial warning signs may include:

  • Frequent urination, especially at night
  • Painful or burning sensation during urination or ejaculation
  • Problems starting or stopping a stream of urine

As the disease progresses, prostate cancer may cause more pronounced symptoms, such as:

  • Blood in the urine or semen
  • Bone pain that doesn’t go away or leads to fractures
  • Difficulty getting or maintaining an erection
  • Pain in the pelvic area, lower back, hips or thighs
  • Weakened, decreased or interrupted flow of urine

In an effort to use his diagnosis to help others, Tyler became an advocate for those impacted by prostate cancer. In a YouTube video posted in June, Tyler said, "I accept this. I know this is what's happened to me. I'm not sitting here crying all the time. I want to save lives. I want to help."

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