Inside Johnny Ruffo’s courageous brain cancer battle

Sadly, the beloved entertainer lost his fight on November 10, 2023.
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As a triple threat – actor, singer, and dancer – the charismatic Johnny Ruffo was always destined for the spotlight.

The 35-year-old was first thrust into stardom as a talented heartthrob on The X Factor in 2011 – ultimately placing third in the season that was won by Reece Mastin.

His stint on the small screen didn’t stop there, however, and two years later Johnny kick-started his acting career with a highly coveted gig on Home and Away playing Chris Harrington from 2013 to 2016.

WATCH:  Home and Away’s Lynne McGranger speaks about how much she loves Johnny Ruffo. Article continues after video.

During his Summer Bay days, Johnny juggled a music career and eventually left the long-running soap to focus solely on his musical aspirations.

Then, it all came crashing down with a health bombshell that no one – not even Johnny himself – saw coming.

Johnny Ruffo
Johnny Ruffo is battling brain cancer for the second time after his shock diagnosis back in 2017. (Credit: Getty)

Brain tumour discovery and emergency surgery

In 2017, Johnny shocked friends and fans alike when he took to Instagram to reveal he had been diagnosed with brain cancer and had undergone emergency surgery to remove a seven-centimetre tumour.

Along with the news, Johnny shared a confronting image of his head stitched up after the life-saving eight-hour surgery that left him with 27 staples in his head.

In his first interview after the surgery, Johnny spoke to New Idea about his condition and revealed just how close he had come to tragedy.

Johnny Ruffo brain cancer stitches
The life-saving eight-hour surgery left Johnny with 27 staples in his head. (Credit: Instagram)

“Without the operation, there was a 100% certainty I would have died because of the pressure on my brain,” Johnny revealed in September 2017.

While they removed 95% of the tumour, doctors were forced to leave behind 5% because of how close it was to nerve endings.

For the first two days after the operation, Johnny was incoherent.

“I was talking garbage, even worse than usual,” he laughed in the interview with New Idea.

“Within days I was back to being myself again. I felt a lot better, lighter. I was confident, I was just sure it was all fine. The tumour was going to be benign, no problem.”

Johnny Ruffo New Idea interview
“Without the operation, there was a 100% certainty I would have died,” Johnny told New Idea in his first interview after the shock cancer diagnosis and emergency surgery. (Credit: New Idea)

A long and difficult journey ahead

Unfortunately, “it was all fine” wasn’t the case and Johnny was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer which only affects three percent of all cancer patients, and embarked on a long journey of chemo and radiation.

In September 2018, Johnny opened up about the physical toll that treatment was taking on him.

“During chemo’s the worst I suppose – you’re vomiting and feeling like absolute crap and nauseous,”  Johnny told Daily Mail Australia.

“I guess you’ve just got to take the good with the bad. The good days you enjoy a lot more because you don’t know when they’re going to be and how far apart they are. All in all, I’ve been fairly positive throughout the whole ordeal.”

WATCH: Johnny Ruffo says he could have died in his sleep on The Project. Article continues after video.

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By his side: Tahnee Sims’ unwavering support of her man

Throughout it all, Johnny’s girlfriend Tahnee Sims, whom he met at a dance studio in 2015, has been a pillar of support.

“Without her I may not be here,” he told Now To Love in October 2020, adding that it was her insistence that he get checked up when he was suffering a migraine.

“She was the one who made me get in the car [to go to hospital] when it [the headaches] first happened. And she’s encouraging me to do things. She keeps me active, getting me to go for runs and swims.”

Johnny Ruffo cancer surgery
The Home and Away star kept a positive outlook during his harrowing ordeal. (Credit: Instagram)

It was a sentiment he also shared two years prior when speaking to Daily Mail Australia about Tahnee at the Avant Garde Brain Cancer charity ball.

“She’s been incredible. I can’t fault her. She’s been there for me every step of the way from literally the day I was diagnosed to now,”  Johnny gushed.

“She’s been absolutely amazing. She’s been my rock so it’s been really good.”

And while Tahnee has been there for Johnny’s tough times, the couple have also managed to share happy times together as well.

Johnny Ruffo Tahnee Sims
By his side every step of the way has been Johnny’s longtime girlfriend Tahnee Sims. (Credit: Instagram)

Speaking to Now To Love in November 2019, Johnny revealed the secret behind their unbreakable bond.

“We just have fun. We make each other laugh so much. You know that gut-wrenching laugh with tears coming from your eyes?” the Broken Glass singer gushed.

“We argue and fight just like every other couple, but we make up too. We kiss and makeup you know?”

And it seems the feeling is mutual, with Tahnee often publicly showing her support for her love, regularly describing him as “the strongest person she knows.”

Tahnee Sims Johnny Ruffo
“She’s been incredible. I can’t fault her,” Johnny said of his “rock”. (Credit: Instagram)

Getting the all-clear: A temporary reprieve

After battling the insidious disease for two years, Johnny celebrated a momentous occasion in 2019.

The actor was given the all-clear from doctors and took to Instagram to share a scan of his brain in 2017 side by side with a 2019 scan of the same thing.

Alongside the image, Johnny was jubilant as he announced he had been declared cancer-free.

“Exactly two years ago versus today, so glad to have beaten this horrible disease. Thank you for all the support!” Johnny penned in the caption.

Johnny Ruffo Tahnee Sims
“We just have fun. We make each other laugh so much. You know that gut-wrenching laugh with tears coming from your eyes?” Johnny previously gushed about his girlfriend Tahnee. (Credit: Instagram)

Despite the assurance from doctors he was in the clear, Johnny candidly admitted during this time that although he felt “much better – both physically and mentally”,  he still got “anxious” going to check-ups.

“I always expect the worst. I don’t know why. I just expect the worst and when they go, ‘Oh, you’re still fine mate’, I go ‘[pauses]… thank you’,” he told Now To Love in November 2019.

Explaining, he added: “It’s hard not to because I don’t want to get my hopes up and then they go, ‘Oh we’ve seen this, you might have to do some more chemo.’ It’s probably not a bad thing. It just makes me quite anxious leading up to it. It’s not fun.”

In the same interview, Johnny admitted that he would be “lost without” his girlfriend Tahnee, “She’s just everything.”

“She comes home from work and she’s probably so tired and just wants to have a break, and then she has me. She wants to try and make me smile.”

“I don’t know how she does it, I really don’t.” 

Johnny Ruffo Tahnee Sims
“I’m gonna fight tooth and nail,” Johnny vowed. (Credit: Instagram)

A heartbreaking discovery: Johnny’s cancer returns

Almost exactly one year later, Johnny was dealt a devastating blow: the cancer was back.

The performer shared the devastating news with his followers on Instagram in November 2020 and vowed to win his battle against the disease.

“After an unexpected week of seizures and excruciating headaches it is with a heavy heart that I have to let you know I now have another huge battle ahead of me as my brain cancer has returned,” he wrote alongside a photo of himself and girlfriend Tahnee.

“Though I will dig deep and beat this sh*t disease again 👊🏽💜 #f*ckcancer”

Johnny Ruffo chemo
“During chemo’s the worst I suppose – you’re vomiting and feeling like absolute crap and nauseous,” he said. (Credit: Instagram)

His most candid interview yet came in June 2021 for Channel Seven’s Spotlight, where it was clear his determination has not wavered.

“I’m gonna fight tooth and nail,” he vowed. “Every second of every day is that extra bit more important.”

In August 2022, Johnny made the sad revelation that his cancer was now terminal in an interview with The Project’s Carrie Bickmore, whose husband Greg Lange died of cancer in 2010. 

“At some point, it will get me, but I’m still fighting, still kicking on. Looking up my diagnosis and my tumour, the average life expectancy was three years. And for me it’s now been five years,” he shared with Carrie. 

“I’m already winning. My goal now is to try and help as many people as I can and also live a happy life.”

WATCH BELOW: Johnny Ruffo opens up about cancer diagnosis. Article continues after video.

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In that same interview, Johnny shared his fears for the future for girlfriend Tahnee. 

“You can only imagine how difficult it’s been for her. What plays in my head a lot is, I hate to say this, how hard it may be for her if something does happen to me,” the actor said at the time. 

“So, it’s something that I don’t want to think about. It just gets me a little bit emotional about it because I know at some point something will happen, whether it’s, you know, a month from now or 10 years from now or 20 years.”

In October 2022, Johnny told TV Week and revealed that former Home and Away co-star Lynne McGranger had been a major support for him, describing him as “amazing.”

“She constantly checks in and asks how I’m doing. She always wants to go out for dinner.”

“I can’t stress enough how people like her help me get through tough times. She’s just a wonderful person. Having people like that say ‘Oh, how are you feeling this week?’ and little sweet things like that make all the difference. It’s a great support network. 

Johnny continued to kick cancers butt all the way to the end. (Credit: Instagram)

After a difficult year in the hospital and countless rounds of chemotherapy, Johnny celebrated his 35th birthday in March 2023, taking to Instagram to mark the occasion. 

“Still kicking this things arse 🥊💜 #comeatme #f—cancer,” he wrote.

Just months later, after a whirlwind trip with girlfriend Tahnee to New Zealand, Johnny returned to hospital to continue his chemotherapy treatment. 

“Back to reality 🥊 🥊🥊,” Johnny captioned a smiling snap of himself, ever the optimist, giving a thumbs up to the camera. 

Close friends and former co-stars Lynne McGranger and Georgie Parker were quick to show their support for Johnny. 

“Looking fwd to seeing you guys for dinner b soon 👍🏽💪🏽😍🥰😘,” wrote Lynne whilst Georgie simply wrote: “You are incredible darling.”

After an exciting trip to New Zealand, Johnny returned to Aus to continue his chemotherapy treatment. (Credit: Instagram)

Then in August of that same year, Johnny and his doting girlfriend Tahnee took to their Instagram to mark a solemn milestone – reflecting upon the six years that had passed since Johnny was first given his brain cancer diagnosis. 

“6 years on from diagnosis💜 what a fighter!!,” Tahnee captioned the video montage.”

WATCH NOW: Johnny Ruffo marks six years since he was first diagnosed with brain cancer. Article continues after video. 

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Johnny leaves this life for the next

Sadly, on Friday, November 10th, 2023 Johnny lost his battle with brain cancer aged 35, his devastated loved ones sharing the news across his social media accounts. 

“It is with a heavy heart that today we had to farewell our beloved Johnny,” the post began. 

“Surrounded by his partner Tahnee and family, Johnny went peacefully with the support of some incredible Nurses & Doctors.”

“He was a very talented, charming, and sometimes cheeky boy. Johnny was very determined and had a strong will. He battled all the way to the end and fought as hard as he could. Such a beautiful soul with so much more to give.”

“We love you Johnny and will remember you for all the joy you brought to our lives. Rest easy. ❤️”

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