Johnny Ruffo was 29 and madly in love when he got a migraine.

Johnny Ruffo has died aged 35, six years after being diagnosed with brain cancer.

His family confirmed the news on Friday, sharing a statement that read: "Surrounded by his partner Tahnee and family, Johnny went peacefully with the support of some incredible nurses and 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."

In late 2022, Ruffo published his memoir, No Finish Line, detailing his experience of battling cancer. It was a memoir that struck a chord with many. Ruffo said: "I hope by sharing my story I’m able to help others find the strength and learn to cherish the now."

The below is an extract from No Finish Line by Johnny Ruffo.


Look, there are probably a lot of people out there who will tell you that I've woken up in some questionable situations. While I admit I may have done things in the past that would make Charlie Sheen blush, I have to say that the most unexpected place I ever thought I'd find myself was in the ICU at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney on a winter's day in 2017. 

Unlike the times where a Macca's cheeseburger and a Powerade could cure whatever headache I had going on, I knew that this time, that little duo wasn't going to cut it. 

For starters, I could barely speak, and I had tubes coming out of my skull – as well as a row of 27 staples across my hairline that fully made me look like I was closely related to Frankenstein or, as Home and Away's Lynne McGranger once described, "A character from Doctor Who".


"Are you trying to touch my dick?"

These may or may not have been the first words out of my mouth after waking up from a surgery I was about to learn I had had overnight.

The kind young man trying to make me more comfortable in my hospital bed (and who was definitely not trying to touch my dick) introduced himself: "My name is Elliot and I'm a nurse at RPAH. You had major surgery to remove a tumour from your brain."

What the f**k? A tumour? I thought I just had a horrible migraine. 

I've been told that over the next 20 minutes I proceeded to heckle Elliot relentlessly, as well as disrupt the slumber of all the other patients in the ward. Our beds were only separated by curtains, and I was apparently extraordinarily loud. As someone who was born with an overactive 'shit-stirrer' gland, I fear morphine exacerbated the usual amount of piss I take out of things and that I may have been obnoxious and borderline rude. (Elliot, you know I love you and think you're the best.)

Once I was able to take a rest ripping on Elliot, I got the idea in my head that I needed to talk to each member of my family. My voice, which I didn't recognise because it more closely resembled that of a very dehydrated demon, asked: "Where's my phone? I need to call my girlfriend, Tahnee."

"She took your phone home with her, but you can use mine," Elliot offered in a patient tone that was truly commendable given the octave I was shouting in.


F**k. I really wanted to talk to Tahnee but the only number I could remember in my weakened state was my dad's. He didn't answer, so I left a voicemail: "Dad! You're not going to believe it! I just had brain surgery. You gotta call Mum. Can you tell her I had a brain tumour? Anyway, gotta go!"

I've since listened to that voicemail and the words came out of my mouth like a kid telling their parents they just got a spot on the footy team. (Morphine is wild.) I was still desperate to talk to Tahnee, so Elliot informed me that he had her number written down. Thankfully, she answered. 

"Where are you? Why did you leave me here? I just woke up and Nurse Elliot is trying to touch my dick. He reckons he went to school with Joel Selwood. Joel Selwood the AFL player!"

Tahnee, who was clearly operating on microsleeps, tried to calm me down and explain what had happened. Through tears, she started to walk me through the previous 24 hours.


Aside from some pretty excruciating headaches that I'd been getting every now and then, life in 2017 was honestly the best. I was 29, madly in love, working on shows and music that I was proud of, and still finding time to party with friends. What more could a guy who was about to close out his twenties want? 

One morning, I woke up with yet another headache, which was bad enough that I only made it from my bed to the lounge. Wondering if my migraines were from being perpetually run down from both my professional and social life, I asked Tahnee for some Panadol and the remote. 


I had been to the doctor a few times about my headaches, but every time, I was only able to leave with either advice to take Panadol or a prescription for the strong painkiller, Endone; and the diagnosis of either a migraine or symptoms of depression. Even though I'd struggled with my mental health at certain points in the past, I felt like I was in a good state emotionally. The headaches and fatigue were pretty much the only things I could find to complain about. 

Once nestled on the lounge, I flicked on American Pickers and hoped that the Panadol would start working soon. Just about the time Mike and Robbie had found another rusted Coke fridge to shine up for a hopeful collector in Nebraska, I started experiencing a burning pain that can only be described as like someone holding a blowtorch to my head.

Tahnee was just steps away in the kitchen making eggs and had asked: "How long do I need to leave the eggs for?"

As an expert egg boiler who can always achieve the perfect runny yolk consistency, I went to ask if she'd already added the oil, but it came out, "Have you already put the boil in the oiling water?"

I must have also been wincing in pain because Tahnee asked me if I was okay. All I could say was a string of nonsensical words: water, sugar, salt, head, hurts. My head was on fire and the pressure made me think someone must have placed a vice around my skull to hold it still for the invisible blowtorch.

Watch: Johnny Ruffo on the fight of his life. Post continues below.


Video via Channel 7.

Tahnee turned off the stove and said I needed to go to the hospital. I remember saying I was fine and didn't want to go, but evidently she won, because I was shuffling into the Emergency Department just 15 minutes later. 

While Tahnee checked me in – because I couldn't form words – I stumbled blindly into the bathroom and vomited into the nearest bin. Almost immediately, two hospital staff members got me in a wheelchair and pushed me into a dark room because they were under the impression I had a severe migraine. 

Over the next 10 hours, I slipped in and out of consciousness and was only mildly aware that I was moaning like a 300-year-old ghost intent on terrorising a new family in the neighbourhood. Doctors, baffled by my condition, kept me on a saline drip to keep me hydrated, while also performing a series of tests to rule out things like meningitis or some other sinister bacterial infection. 

As day turned to night, my tests were coming back clear, but my pain and nausea were worsening. This was surprising to pretty much everyone, since not only was I on the strongest pain medications they could offer, I was also being dosed with the big guns for anti-nausea. With little more they could do, we just had to wait and see if I would improve with time.


In and out of my fog, I could tell nurses were checking in on me and quizzing me to gauge my level of cognition, but the words coming out of my mouth were more like the sounds that Charlie Brown's teacher made. (Wah, wah, wah.) I could hear Tahnee trying to explain that migraine or not, I wouldn't know who the premier was. (I confess, it wasn't until total legend, Gladys Berejiklian, came on the scene that I started taking an interest in state politics.) 

Just as I tried to answer yet another brain teaser, my body involuntarily went from lying down to sitting straight up.

Next, in a scene that would have no doubt been cut from The Exorcist for being 'too gory', my mouth opened and I proceeded to projectile vomit a very putrid and very brown substance that I'm sure haunts all present parties to this day. Tahnee tells me that once the nurses were able to recover from the trauma they'd just endured, they opted to get me yet another drip of fluids and my pain/anti-nausea cocktail. 

They also changed me into a temporary hospital gown and placed my clothes in a bag that I can imagine was labelled 'Medical Waste'. Fully expecting that I would have to be feeling better after that power spew, Tahnee went home to get me new clothes so that I wouldn't have to leave the hospital with my backside exposed to the elements. 

By 11 pm, I must have been able to rest and hold my fluids down because Tahnee was advised to go home to get some good sleep and that she could come back and get me in the morning. 


At 7.30 am, Tahnee woke up and checked her phone. Nothing – no missed calls. A bit baffled, she rang the Emergency Department (ED) to ask how I was doing. The nurse on the other end of the line was extremely flustered and grateful that she'd called. Evidently, the hospital had had two digits swapped in Tahnee's number, hence the failed contact.

"We've been trying to call you for hours! Johnny's state deteriorated overnight. At 3 am, we rushed him for a CT scan and found a large tumour mass on his brain. This explains the huge amount of pressure he's feeling, the headaches and vomiting. After we did an MRI, he started to slip into a coma and we desperately need you to come and sign paperwork so we can perform surgery."

Obviously, I don't remember a whole lot of the details surrounding this part, but Tahnee tells me that after she rushed to the hospital in an Uber, doctors told her that there was a 20 per cent chance I wouldn't survive surgery, but a 100 per cent chance I wouldn't survive the day if they didn't try to remove the tumour and relieve the pressure on my brain to prevent an aneurysm. 

With her consent, I was wheeled into the operating room where a team of surgeons and nurses spent nearly 10 hours cutting a tumour the size of a tennis ball out of my head. While I was blissfully unaware, thanks to the magic of anaesthesia, my family and friends were all hopping on planes and in cars to get to me.


There's something about nearly dying that puts things in perspective for you.


Over the next few weeks, my head started to heal and the doctors tapered my painkillers. Up until that point, the only real things that had mattered in my life, in no particular order, were performing, recording music, acting, Tahnee, family and partying with friends. 

But suddenly I was having to have conversations about chemotherapy, radiation, and whether it was necessary to freeze my sperm just in case I became infertile.

One of the saddest things about cancer is that even though it can feel like an isolating experience and that you're the only victim, you quickly learn that it's actually quite a large club that nobody asked to be part of.


When I was faced with my diagnosis and ultimately given the choice to fight or not to fight, I instantly knew I wanted to fight for Tahnee, for my family and for the right to LIVE. While I had the inherent desire to give everything to my recovery, I also knew that I'd have to overcome more than just the gruelling side effects of chemo. 

You see, when you're diagnosed with a disease like cancer, you also feel like it's somehow your fault. In the beginning, the words, why me?, echoed inside my head nearly every minute of the day. I kept trying to retrace my steps and figure out where I'd gone wrong. But here's the thing: cancer doesn't discriminate. It doesn't care if you're black, white, Puerto Rican, Asian, a straight-A student, bus driver, neurologist, archaeologist, kid on a soccer team or a concreter from Perth.

While looking for answers for myself to gain some sort of clarity and awareness about my new reality, I turned to my fellow battlers – some only just entering kindy and others in the prime of their life. And I have to tell you that I've never met more courageous, resilient, grounded and inspiring people. 

I won't say I don't wish I didn't have cancer, but I will say I do not regret the people it's brought into my life. Because of their strength, wisdom, and love, I am connecting with the people I love more deeply, living more truly to my values and experiencing a level of gratitude for life I didn't even know was possible. 


This may be an unpopular opinion, but I don’t like the word 'journey' when talking about cancer. A journey is driving from Parramatta to Crows Nest in peak traffic or trying to go through customs in Los Angeles. Just kidding – to me, a journey is the course someone takes willingly to discover something about themselves, someone, something, or some place. Key word being willingly. No one in the cancer club is willingly going through cancer to discover something about themselves, someone, something, or some place. 

With that being said, we are certainly learning more than we could ever have imagined. I just think we should call it what it is: a battle. 

Cancer is a battle of the mind, the body, and the spirit. It challenges you in ways you can never prepare for, and regardless of whether you're killing cancer cells or simply trying to brush your teeth, you have to give it everything you've got.

As someone who is living with terminal cancer and truly doesn't know if he has a year, two years, or a lifetime ahead of him, I do a lot of journaling. It helps me process my emotions, leave worrisome thoughts on a page, and remember why I'm so willing to live a life on the battlefield. 

Every day, I've found that identifying just one thing worth fighting for can give me the strength needed to pull my chin up and attack the day. By revisiting past wins, losses, and moments with particular people in my life, I realised that before cancer, I had already been on quite the journey. 

My battle with cancer is a story worth telling, but so is my life before. If the one thing cancer allows me to do is make someone else find their fight, well, that's good enough for me.


Johnny Ruffo is an Australian icon - a singer, actor, dancer and presenter. He is also the author of 'No Finish Line' which is available to purchase now. 

This article was originally published in August 2022, and has since been updated with new information.

Feature Image: Instagram @johnny_ruffo.