Kris Kristofferson was slowly “slipping away” when he was being treated for what doctors thought was dementia, but now he’s back. In an interview with the Huffington Post, Kris Kristofferson’s wife, Lisa Meyers Kristofferson, said her husband’s decade-long misdiagnosis had them searching for answers, but that they only recently found them.
Kris was diagnosed with fibromyalgia 12 years ago, and his wife says that should have been a clue that he was harboring Lyme disease. Lisa Kristofferson believes Kris has been infected with Lyme anywhere from 14 to 30 years because of his history of chronic muscle spasms, which are a common symptom of the tick-borne illness.
Lisa revealed that at one point, Kris’s painful spasms were causing “golf ball-sized” contractions in his legs and back that they treated with acupuncture, heat and massage, a spinal cortisone shot, and a low dose anti-depressant.
“This eight-month period he was in so much pain he could not work,” Lisa said.
Kristofferson’s wife thinks he could have contracted Lyme two year earlier while shooting the movie Disappearances. The 2006 flick had Kris filming in the woods in rural Vermont where he was crawling on the forest floor for much of the shoot.
“During the aftermath of that film, Kris was diagnosed with moderate to severe sleep apnea,” Lisa said. “He had painful knees and annual knee shots, a pacemaker for arrhythmias- which we now know could be from Lyme- so much Advil for headaches that he got anemic.”
Kristofferson’s wife said after Kris was put on a heavy dose of iron supplements, she took him to an integrative doctor who diagnosed him with Lyme disease earlier this year. This occurred after the 80-year-old actor and singer was misdiagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease a few years earlier.
“For the past three years, he was treated for Alzheimer’s by two different neurologists,” Lisa said.
While Kristofferson’s wife said doctors had Kris on memory medications to “keep him from declining further for long stretches of time,” she said he would sometimes get worse and then plateau again.
“He could always remember songs, music is deeply embedded in the brain,” Lisa said. “The first thing I noticed was that he lost his keen sense of smell. The next thing I noticed was his spatial awareness was off… I had to watch him constantly, it was very consistent with Alzheimer’s.”
Still, Lisa Kristofferson had a few clues that her superstar husband might have something else going on.
“[Kris had] been complaining about having memory loss to his doctors for about 12 years and my understanding of Alzheimer’s is that you’re not even aware you have memory loss,” she said. “That was a big clue to me that maybe it was not really Alzheimer’s. He would say “my memory’s shot, my memory’s gone.’… Also, Alzheimer’s patients often fight things and don’t want to do certain things and Kris has always been a very compliant patient. That was another clue to me.”
Lisa detailed Kris’s “tremendous improvement” after starting Lyme disease treatments, and she said three weeks into it, his personality came back with a bang.
“He still has spatial awareness issues and short-term memory loss,” she said. “He sometimes even forgets he has Lyme! So, he really lives in the present and he feels good. His physical health is incredibly good. All his symptoms of fibromyalgia, sleep apnea and twitching are now gone with the Lyme treatment… It’s not like he’s immortal at eighty, but there’s not that big black void ahead of us anymore. And that’s the deal now, Kris is totally present and sometimes we forget he’s battling anything.”
Earlier this year, fans first learned that Kris Kristofferson’s increasingly debilitating memory loss — which docs attributed to either Alzheimer’s or blows to his head from sports he played as a youth — was actually brought on by Lyme disease.
“He was taking all these medications for things he doesn’t have, and they all have side effects,” Kristofferson’s wife told Rolling Stone.
But after taking Kris off of memory meds and treating him for Lyme disease, “[a]ll of a sudden he was back.”
Take a look at the video below to see Kris Kristofferson in a 2014 interview.
[Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for GREY GOOSE]