EXCLUSIVE: Johnny Ruffo “needs to be strong” for Tahnee Sims

After his tragic cancer update.
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Before he’d even sung his first note on The X Factor, Johnny Ruffo’s smile had done half the work for him to get him through the audition.

WATCH: Johnny Ruffo’s X Factor audition in 2011

Beaming down the camera, the then 23-year-old concreter from Perth said, “I love music and I want the whole world to know that,” revealing his dream was to sing and dance in front of a global audience.

As he glided effortlessly across the stage in his tight jeans and leather jacket with musical notes shaved into his buzz cut, his voice faltered yet his charismatic personality never did.

It was “an absolute no” from Mel B – “He can’t sing.” Natalie Bassingthwaighte retorted, “Whatever, he’s hot.”

More than 10 years later, his dream shattered after being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, but his cheeky smile, roguish charm and relentless (if at times totally inappropriate) good humour is still getting him through – as is his love of music.

Johnny Ruffo is staying strong for girlfriend Tahnee Sims – and himself. (Credit: Instagram)

“I need to be strong,” he tells WHO.

“A lot of people say ‘stay positive’, which initially bothered me because positivity doesn’t cure s–t, but you do need to stay positive. It helps get you from day to day. You’ve got to find strength … but you do need to find the fight within yourself.”

Fight is something Ruffo, 34, has plenty of and he knows he will need every bit of it.

After suffering excruciating headaches and then developing speech problems, he was rushed to hospital in August 2017 and diagnosed with brain cancer.

He underwent surgery to remove a 7cm tumour from his frontal lobe and, with intensive treatment, went into remission in 2019.

Johnny was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2017. (Credit: Instagram)

In 2020, he learnt the cancer was back and he remains in treatment. He refuses to live in fear of it, but accepts “it’s part of me”.

Luckily, he’s not fighting this on his own and he praises the support network he has around him – his mum, brother, family and friends, but most importantly his girlfriend of seven years, Tahnee Sims.

“Tahnee inspires me to want to do better and to be better,” he says. “She helps me find the fight every day and I’m so grateful for that. I can’t thank her enough. She’s unbelievable.”

At times it seems the hardest thing for him is thinking about how his health might affect Tahnee.

WATCH: Johnny Ruffo reveals his cancer is terminal

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While they try to keep their relationship as normal as possible and talk about the future, “the problem is what goes on in my head – I know at some point, because it’s a terminal cancer, I know at some point it’s going to get me.

“I love her more than anything,” he confides. “I already feel the pain that she’s going to have to go through and there’s nothing I can do about that.

“I can’t take that away from her. It’s heartbreaking for me and it feels like it’s all my fault. I don’t know what to do. So we take each day as it comes. I’m fighting my hardest.”

Ruffo’s wild ride of ups and downs in such a short period of time has ultimately led to him sharing his story in his memoir, No Finish Line.

He candidly writes about his humble beginnings in Perth, his desire to entertain from a young age and being catapulted to stardom after coming third on talent show, The X Factor.

Johnny and Tahnee pose with his book. (Credit: Instagram)

He’s honest about his partying and bad behaviour as his singing career took off, and he toured the country with One Direction and New Kids On The Block, then became the latest heart-throb on Home and Away.

No doubt he could be a bit of a ratbag, and that smile and charm must have once again worked overtime to keep him out of too much trouble.

“I wanted to be able to talk about it, not only to get certain things off my own chest, but also to be able to open up and help others that may be going through similar things,” he explains.

“Maybe then they can feel like they’re not the only person going through this.”

WATCH: Johnny Ruffo opens up about mental health

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He also details his battles with his mental health and his two suicide attempts during his darkest days, well before his cancer diagnosis.

Ruffo hopes his honesty about these experiences in the book will encourage people to have open conversations and seek help when they need it.

“You have to talk to people if you are feeling in any way, shape or form like you’re getting to that point,” he offers.

“And you need to speak to your friends and see how they’re doing, just catch up and see how they’re doing. The smallest comment can spark an entire conversation and that might help them open up about something that they’re going through.”

Johnny is urging anyone who is struggling to seek support. (Credit: Instagram)

Music is still a huge part of his life and as well as being therapeutic, he’s working on an EP. He’s still got the slick dance moves that helped propel him to celeb status on reality television.

“I could live for another 30 years. I could live for 40 years. I could live for three years. You don’t know. You always hear about an exception to the rule and that could be. I could live for 40 more years – happily ever after – that’s the plan.”

If you or someone you know has been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, help is always available. Call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit their website.

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