Mark Ruffalo Recalls the Left Side of His Face Being 'Totally Paralyzed' After Having Brain Tumor Removed

The ‘Poor Things’ actor, 56, reflected on being diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2001

Mark Ruffalo
Mark Ruffalo

Mark Ruffalo is reflecting on his brain tumor diagnosis over two decades ago.

The Poor Things star, 56, appeared on Monday’s episode of the SmartLess podcast with hosts Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes and Will Arnett. During the show, the actor recalled being diagnosed with a benign vestibular schwannoma in 2001.

"I had a brain tumor after the success of You Can Count on Me," he said, noting that he discovered the tumor after having a dream about it. “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.'"

Ruffalo admitted that the dream was “so intense” that he went to the doctor for a CAT scan after feeling a “sense of doom.” At the time, the only symptom he had was an ear infection.

“The nurse calls the doctor up, I could hear them talking in the other room. She comes in, she’s kinda like a zombie and she says, ‘You have a mass behind your left ear the size of a golf ball, and we don’t know what it is. We can’t tell until it’s biopsied,’” he said.

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<p>Bryan Bedder/Variety/Penske Media via Getty</p> Sunrise Coigney and Mark Ruffalo

Bryan Bedder/Variety/Penske Media via Getty

Sunrise Coigney and Mark Ruffalo

The Avengers star said the tumor was benign but he needed surgery to remove the mass. Rufallo said that he ultimately decided to keep the diagnosis a secret from his wife Sunrise Coigney, who was pregnant and days away from giving birth to their first child, son Keen, now 22.

Ruffalo told Coigney of his health a week after their son was born and the night before his appointment to “meet the neurologist” and figure out a treatment plan.

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

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Ruffalo had the benign tumor surgically removed. The star was told that during the procedure, there was a 20% chance of “killing” the nerve on the left side of his face and a 70% chance of losing the hearing in his left ear.

“[I am] completely deaf in one ear, and when I woke up, the left side of my face was totally paralyzed,” he recalled of the surgery’s aftermath. “I couldn’t even close my eye. I was talking out the side of my mouth.”

The paralysis eventually went away a year later, however, the actor still deals with hearing loss today.

“Take my hearing, but let me keep the face and just let me be the father to these kids,” he recalled thinking at the time. Ruffalo and Coigney later welcomed two more children, daughters Bella Noche and Odette.

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