They say the human body knows when something is amiss, but Mark Ruffalo might have a special sixth sense.
In an interview this week on the SmartLess podcast, Ruffalo, 56, revealed that his doctors discovered a benign brain tumour behind his left ear in 2001. At the time, the actor, who was then working on The Last Castle, said he had a premonition of sorts that pushed him to contact his doctor.
“I just had this crazy dream. It wasn’t like any other dream I had had,” Ruffalo said. “It was just like ‘You have a brain tumour.’ It wasn’t even a voice, it was just pure knowledge: ‘You have a brain tumour, and you have to deal with it immediately.’”
Ruffalo said he felt “a sense of doom” despite not having any prior symptoms, except an ear infection.
He told an on-set doctor about his dream, who the same day ordered a CAT scan and assured the actor he shouldn’t worry.
When the results came, Ruffalo was told he had a “golf ball”-sized mass behind his left ear. His doctors couldn’t preemptively say what the mass was until it was biopsied.
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But then Ruffalo faced a second dilemma. His wife, Sunrise Coigney, was days away from giving birth to their first child. Ruffalo said he didn’t want to worry his wife during the pregnancy.
“I was just like, I can’t. She’s already like, ‘Oh god, him again? Does everything gotta be about him?’” Ruffalo joked.
The Spotlight actor waited until about a week after the birth of their son to tell his wife the news. The night before he was to meet with his neurologist, Ruffalo came clean to his wife, who didn’t take the frightening news well.
Ruffalo said she burst into tears and cried out, “I always knew you were gonna die young!”
“If you wrote it in a script, it’d be too much,” Ruffalo laughed.
Ruffalo had the benign tumour surgically removed.
“They said they had a 20 per cent chance of nicking a nerve on the left side of my face and killing it, and then I had 70 per cent chance of losing my hearing,” he explained.
In the end, Ruffalo permanently lost hearing in his left ear. The left side of his face was also temporarily paralyzed.
“Take my hearing, let me keep the face, and just let me be the father of this kid,” he recalled thinking at the time.
About a year after his surgery, Ruffalo regained movement in the left side of his face.
In the years since his diagnosis, Ruffalo has become one of the most recognized people in Hollywood. This week, the actor was nominated for his fourth Academy Award. Ruffalo was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his hammy portrayal of the sleazy, mustachioed Duncan Wedderburn in Poor Things.
Ruffalo has three children — son Keen, now 22, and daughters Bella Noche, 18, and Odette, 16.
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