Why Mark Ruffalo Hid His Brain Tumor From His Wife

In the early days of Mark Ruffalo‘s film career, the Poor Things star received some news that could’ve derailed his entire life. On Jan. 22, the Emmy-winning actor stopped by the SmartLess podcast hosted Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes, and Will Arnett and reflected on the time he learned he had a “mass” behind his left ear. It was over two decades ago, and at the time, his wife Sunrise Coigley was just a few days away from giving birth to their first child. 

“I had a brain tumor after the success of You Can Count on Me,” he said of the aftermath of the 2000 film. “Sunrise was, like, nine and a half months pregnant, and the baby was imminently coming.”

Related: Mark Ruffalo Talks the Real Horror Behind His Eco-Thriller ‘Dark Waters’

His first hint that he had a brain tumor came to him in his sleep before he had an early call time one morning. “I had one of those 4 a.m. calls, and I woke up probably around 3 a.m., and I just had this crazy dream,” he said. “It wasn’t like any other dream I’d 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’d only had an ear infection, but he felt such a “sense of doom” from the “intense” vision that he went to the doctor right away to get it checked out. “I said, ‘Listen, this is going to sound crazy, but I had this dream last night that I had a brain tumor,”’ he remembered. He got a CAT scan and soon got an answer even the medical professionals weren’t expecting. “She comes in, and she’s just kind of like a zombie. 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,'” he recounted. 

It ended up being a benign tumor, but in the interim period before having it surgically removed, Ruffalo waited several weeks before telling his wife about his diagnosis. Finally, he shared the news with her a week after their son Keen was born, and right before he went into surgery. 

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

It’s hard to believe that Ruffalo learned about his tumor through a dream in real life, given the sci-fi nature of the premonition. 

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