The actor's mother said, "He didn’t tell anyone for weeks. When he finally did, I was like, 'Oh, my God. How could you bear all that?'"
It was during his wife, Sunrise Coigney's pregnancy with their first child when Mark Ruffalo woke up one day after he dreamt of himself having brain tumor. The actor decided to get himself checked and one CT scan later, the doctors told him that his dream wasn't wrong. There was a tumor the size of a walnut right behind his left ear.
Knowing that the fear and stress of possibly losing her life partner would in no way be good for a pregnant woman, the actor was prepared to face the battle against the tumor on his own. Mark Ruffalo kept his condition a secret from the love of his life and carried the burden of his acoustic neuroma diagnosis alone.
What he couldn't bear was the thought of his child growing up without a father. And so, he decided to record a video of himself for his son.
"I was certain I was going to die," he told Men's Journal. "I made a tape for him. For when he was old enough to understand. Just saying, Hey, this is who I am."
After weeks of keeping it a secret, Mark Ruffalo finally told his loved ones about his tumor a week after his wife gave birth to their son, Keen. His mother recalled, "He didn’t tell anyone for weeks. When he finally did, I was like, 'Oh, my God. How could you bear all that?'"
A couple of weeks later, he went into surgery and came out the other end with the left side of his face completely paralyzed and even deaf. It was an extremely tough time for him, as he avoided calls and even talking to people. Just as his career was about to take off, he went into hiding, wondering not only if he would ever act again, but also if his body would ever function normally.
"Recovery really tested what I was made of as a man," he said, according to MensXP. But eventually, he did recover and was able to climb to the top of his career as a successful actor. And yet, despite everything, it is his wonderful marriage that has lasted almost two decades that really takes the spotlight.
Sunrise Coigney knew Mark Ruffalo when he had almost nothing. And as for him, he knew he wanted to marry her from the moment they met. They met on a street while he was walking with a mutual friend of both of theirs. "I don’t think he wanted us to meet," he laughed and said. "But I saw her and was like, I’m going to marry that girl."
He knew that he didn't have anything to offer but his true, authentic self. "All I had was my decency, wit, and charm – I didn’t have anything. When I met her, she was like, 'You don’t have a driver’s license, you don’t have a credit card. What is wrong with you, dude? I can’t be with you!' I was living in a converted garage, and she was there for that, she was game. She believed in me. She was like, 'I know you’re a really good actor,’ and I was like, 'You haven’t really seen me act yet.’ And she was like, 'I just know it, I can tell.'"
After dating each other for three years, the couple exchanged vows in 2000. The actor, who is known for his humility, had no qualms about building a strong marriage with his wife. "I ran to my marriage, I was happily ready to take on marriage," he said, as quoted by Goalcast. The couple completed their family with their three children, Keen, Bella Noche, and Odette.
Sunrise Coigney didn't mind taking a break from her own acting career and told WWD, "I had a woman once tell me, 'You know, Sunrise, you’ll always get a second chance at your career, but you’ll never get a second chance with your children.'"
They don't hesitate to admit that there ad difficult times, like all couples experience. But they grow together through those times. "Sunny and my friendship-slash-marriage-slash-love affair is also changing and growing along the way," Mark Ruffalo told Julia Roberts for Interview. "Honestly, it hasn’t been without its difficulties, its shortcomings; it hasn’t been without joy or learning or developing."
About his idea of marriage, he said, "I think of marriage as a garden. You have to tend to it. Respect it, take care of it, feed it. Make sure everyone is getting the right amount of, um, sunlight."