Mark Ruffalo Waited Weeks to Tell His Wife About Brain Tumor Diagnosis

It was terrifying for both of them.

Actor Mark Ruffalo (R) and Sunrise Coigney attend The 22nd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on January 30, 2016 in Los Angeles, California
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Mark Ruffalo kept his brain tumor diagnosis from his wife Sunrise Coigney for several weeks, but he had a very understandable reason for it.

The Poor Things actor was 33 when he found out that he a large "mass" behind his left ear, and at the time, his wife—whom he married in 2000—was just days away from giving birth to their first child, son Keen, now 22.

Appearing on the SmartLess podcast hosted by Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes, and Will Arnett, Ruffalo recalled this life-defining health scare.

"I had a brain tumor after the success of You Can Count on Me," the actor told the hosts. "Sunrise was, like, nine and a half months pregnant, and the baby was imminently coming."

Sunrise Ruffalo and Mark Ruffalo and son

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Recalling the unusual way he found out about the tumor, Ruffalo continued, "I had one of those 4 a.m. calls, and I woke up probably around 3, and I just had this crazy dream. It wasn’t like any other dream I ever had. It was just like, 'You have a brain tumor.' It wasn’t even a voice. It was just pure knowledge, 'You have a brain tumor, and you have to deal with it immediately.'"

He explained that he only had one symptom, and said, "It's funny, I had an ear infection that night, and that was hurting me, so I went to the cast doctor the next day ... and I said, 'Listen, this is going to sound crazy, but I had this dream last night I had a brain tumor.'"

The doctor told him that it did sound a bit "crazy," but that they would do a CAT scan so that he wouldn't have to worry unnecessarily. But of course, the scan ended up detecting that something wasn't right.

"[The nurse] comes in and she’s just kind of, like, a zombie," Ruffalo said. "And she says, 'You have a mass behind your left ear the size of a golf ball. We don’t know what it is, we can’t tell until it’s biopsied.'"

The growth turned out to be a benign tumor, and Ruffalo kept the diagnosis to himself for weeks until right before the surgery to remove it.

"When I told Sunny about it, first she thought I was joking," he explained. "And then she just burst into tears and said, 'I always knew you were gonna die young.'"

Doctors warned Ruffalo that the surgery carried risks, including a 70 percent chance that he would lose his hearing in that ear, which he did. Still, he counted that as a blessing, saying that he prayed to a God he didn't really believe in, "Take my hearing, but let me keep the face, and just let me be the father of these kids."

Happily, Ruffalo and Coigney ended up also welcoming daughter Bella, 18, and Odette, 16, and the actor was able to keep building up his successful career as well.

Iris Goldsztajn
Morning Editor

Iris Goldsztajn is a London-based journalist, editor and author. She is the morning editor at Marie Claire, and her work has appeared in the likes of InStyle, Cosmopolitan, Bustle and Shape. Iris writes about everything from celebrity news and relationship advice to the pitfalls of diet culture and the joys of exercise. She has many opinions on Harry Styles, and can typically be found eating her body weight in cheap chocolate.