“Gunther” on Friends Dies of Stage Four Prostate Cancer

By Leah Mize

James Michael Tyler, known for playing Gunther on Friends, died on Oct. 24 at 59 years old from stage four prostate cancer. 

Gunther was the manager of Central Perk, the coffee shop Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) got her first job at and where the gang often hung out. His ongoing joke was that he was in love with Rachel and was simultaneously always willing and never able to act on his feelings for her. On occasion he would sabotage everyone else’s chances with her. After ten seasons and over one hundred episodes, Gunther is the one recurring character who appears the most frequently. 

Tyler remained active in the Friends fandom for years after the show ended. In September of 2009, he opened a pop-up store in London to celebrate fifteen years of the show airing. It ran for two weeks and fans could purchase tickets to see the set pieces and props from the show’s sets. 

Tyler kept his cancer diagnosis quiet until the Friends reunion, hosted by HBO Max, in June of 2021. He had suffered with it for almost three years at that point. 

Today is the first day of Movember, also known as no shave November, a month-long challenge to raise awareness of men’s health issues such as prostate cancer, anxiety, depression, and testicular cancer. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, prostate cancer is extremely common among men over fifty, as age is one of the risk factors in determining if someone could develop prostate cancer. The Prostate Cancer Foundation estimates that approximately one in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime. 

The earlier prostate cancer is caught, the better the chances of recovery are. If the cancer is still contained to the prostate gland, the chances of a successful recovery are even higher. 

Tyler’s metastasized to his spine, causing him to need a wheelchair. The Mayo Clinic states that once prostate cancer has metastasized to other parts of the body such as bones or other organs, it’s unlikely to be totally cured but can successfully respond to treatment. 

According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, the best way to combat prostate cancer is through preventative healthcare. This means being aware of your family history as it relates to cancer and a genetic predisposition to it and getting an initial cancer screening from the age of 45 onward. 

The Mayo Clinic recommends maintaining a consistent exercise routine and healthy diet packed with whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. 

“My father getting diagnosed with prostate cancer was scary,” said Lexus McFarland, former UT student. “If his doctors hadn’t caught it in time, it could have been much worse. It was already hard on my family but we were lucky to find out when we did.”

For those inclined to donate, the Movember Foundation is an international non-profit charity dedicated to championing men’s health issues including prostate cancer.  According to their website, their goal is to reduce the number of men dying from early deaths by 2030. 

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