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The Low Down

How Mark Ruffalo Kept A Secret About His Brain Tumor Diagnosis

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Mark Ruffalo

In 2001, Mark Ruffalo was diagnosed with a brain tumor. At the time, his wife was pregnant with their first child. So, Ruffalo decided to keep his brain tumor a secret from her. While this might not be too smart, you don’t have to worry. He had good intentions.

A True Superhero

When Mark Ruffalo was cast to star as Bruce Banner in Marvel’s The Incredible Hulk in 2008, fans were puzzled by the seemingly odd casting choice. Ruffalo looked too “scrawny” and “nerdy” to some fans. However, his thoughtful demeanor was exactly what was needed to make Bruce Banner into a heartthrob.

Ruffalo’s portrayal of the Incredible Hulk pleasantly surprised fans. They fell in love with him and they can’t imagine him not ever playing the character. But once fans learned how Ruffalo is a humble, loving, and quirky husband and father in his personal life, they fell even more in love with him. He transforms into the muscle-bound Hulk in his movies, but in his free time, he’s just like everyone else: a lovable family man.

Finding Out About His Tumor

In 2001, Ruffalo’s career was just about to take off. After years of struggling to find good acting roles in Hollywood, his luck began to change when he was cast to star alongside Robert Redford in the 2001 film, The Last Castle. This was his first big break.

Ruffalo commented, “It was big-time. There I was with one of my heroes, Robert Redford, doing this walk-and-talk. This is my wildest dream come true!” But while he was living out his dream, the actor found out unfortunate, heartbreaking news: He had a brain tumor. His whole life was about to change, and it certainly wasn’t for the better.

A Prophetic Dream

Ruffalo found out about his tumor in the most unusual, yet helpful, way possible. One night, he had a dream that he had a brain tumor. When he woke up, it was strangely clear to the actor that he had to consult a doctor. People typically don’t dream about brain tumors or other illnesses for no reason.

Ruffalo was lucky that he followed his instincts. His dream was prophetic. Following the necessary CT scan, doctors found that he had a walnut-size tumor behind his left ear. He was diagnosed with a vestibular schwannoma, a type of brain tumor otherwise known as an acoustic neuroma.

After his diagnosis, Ruffalo didn’t defer from his goals. He didn’t give up on fighting for his life. Surgery was an option, but there was a 30-percent chance he would be paralyzed on the left side of his face. He shared, “I tried everything—energy healers, acupuncture, craniosacral therapy, everything, everything. There was nothing I wouldn’t have tried.”

Keeping It A Secret

At the time of his diagnosis, Ruffalo’s wife, Sunrise Coigney, was days away from giving birth to their first child. Knowing this, he decided to keep the diagnosis a secret. He didn’t want to worry his wife when she was about to give birth to their child. She should have been focusing on that, not his health.

Ruffalo didn’t disclose the diagnosis to his family until a week after their son, Keen, was born. His family was shocked, and his mother said she didn’t know how he could have handled the diagnosis on his own. But he was always thinking of his wife and his future child.

Undergoing Surgery

Once his family knew about his diagnosis, Ruffalo underwent surgery to remove the tumor. While the tumor ended up being benign (noncancerous), the procedure went according to how doctors predicted. The left side of his face was almost completely paralyzed. He was also left deaf in his left ear.

Ruffalo was worried that being paralyzed would ruin his acting career, but he kept fighting. He worked towards a full recovery (with the paralysis subsiding) and he continues to fight for a life with his wife and children. Due to his efforts, he has remained healthy since his diagnosis.

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