The pain was intense, excruciating. With unbearable pressure building inside his brain, Johnny Ruffo felt as if someone was holding a blowtorch to his head.
The X Factor’s happy-go- lucky favourite went to casualty thinking he had a migraine, but CT and MRI scans revealed the terrifying truth. There was a 7cm tumour in the right frontal lobe of his brain – it turned out to be cancerous – and Johnny would die unless he had emergency surgery to remove it.
For the first two days after the operation Johnny, 29, was incoherent. ‘I was talking garbage, even worse than usual,’ he laughs. '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.’
A week later, however, the family was devastated to discover their optimism was misplaced. The growth was a malignant stage three oligodendroglioma – a rare cancer affecting only about three per cent of brain tumour patients, according to Cancer Research UK.
'There was a lot of medical jargon, but by all accounts this responds really well to radiotherapy and chemo so they are pretty confident they can beat it, which is good news,' explains Johnny.
He’s scheduled for radiotherapy five days a week for six weeks - 30 treatments in all.
After the radiotherapy, he will have a four-week break while his progress is assessed. Then he will most likely have six months of chemotherapy.
‘Hopefully, I’ll be home and hosed after that,’ he says, snuggling up to his girlfriend Tahnee at the couple’s cosy unit in Sydney’s inner west.
See the full story in this week's issue of New Idea, on sale now.