Lyme Disease Awareness Month: Kris Kristofferson was misdiagnosed with Alzheimer's, memory loss was due to ticks

Lyme Disease Awareness Month: Kris Kristofferson was misdiagnosed with Alzheimer's, memory loss was due to ticks
Kris Kristofferson (Getty Images)

The tick-borne illness affects many people but isn't easily or efficiently diagnosed, with its array of symptoms, it can also be misdiagnosed. 

Renowned songwriter and actor and country legend Kris Kristofferson contracted the disease and it went undiagnosed for years. Kristofferson is known for his roles as Rudy Martin in 'Fast Food Nation' and songs like 'Me and Bobby McGee,' and his suffering shocked many people.

In a 2016 HuffPost article, his wife Lisa Meyers talks about his diagnosis revealing that her husband was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia 12 years prior, " which looking back, should have been the first indication that a test for Lyme was warranted. But we suspect he’s been infected with Lyme anywhere from 14 to 30 years because he used to have these chronic muscle spasms, which is a common symptom. We were in LA at the time, in Malibu, and I just don’t think doctors were looking for it or aware of it there then. But now we know it’s everywhere. There are signs on my local playground that say beware of ticks."

Kristofferson's wife described her husband's fibromyalgia as "massive, painful spasms all over his back and legs" and that he was suffering from it for eight months.  "Two years earlier he had spent six weeks in the woods in rural, remote Vermont making a film called Disappearances. He was on the forest floor for much of the shoot, being dragged in a makeshift sling and carried by his son in the film, because he had been “shot” in the leg," said Meyers recalling as to where he may have gotten bit.

Kristofferson was then diagnosed with "moderate to severe sleep apnea" and refused to use a bi-level CPAP machine. Meyers revealed that Kristofferson had a pacemaker for arrhythmias and annual knee shots and developed anemia. Doctor Mark Filidei, from Whitaker Wellness Institute, diagnosed Kristofferson with Lyme disease - "Upon examining Kris and watching the muscles in his forearms constantly twitching, he announced, 'He’s got Lyme Disease' and ordered a blood test. The first test from LabCorp came back suspicious, the second test by IGeneX was positive. This was in February 2016," said Meyers.

While the songwriter had been suffering from debilitating symptoms of what could have possibly been Lyme, he was misdiagnosed with Alzheimer's. Suffering from progressive memory loss, his wife told HuffPost in 2016, "For the past three years, he was treated for Alzheimer’s by two different neurologists. He was on two drugs for it, Namenda and Exelon patches. But finally, a spinal tap and functional MRI ruled out Alzheimer’s, so he quit those meds and the antidepressant for fibromyalgia."

Meyers also told Rolling Stone, "He was taking all these medications for things he doesn’t have, and they all have side effects." Kristofferson underwent three weeks of Lyme treatment, and while there were bad days, there were good ones too.  “All of a sudden he was back," Meyers said, “Some days he’s perfectly normal and it’s easy to forget that he is even battling anything.”

In fact, Kris had been complaining to doctors about memory loss said Meyers in the 2016 HuffPost article, "and my understanding of Alzheimer’s is that you’re not even aware you have memory loss. 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.” Kristofferson's is getting better according to his wife who said that his symptoms of " fibromyalgia, sleep apnea and twitching are now gone with the Lyme treatment."

Kristofferson who said "What good would it do?” when asked if he was scared about losing his past, explained himself, “I really have no anxiety about controlling my own life. Somehow I just slipped into it and it’s worked. It’s not up to me – or you. I feel very lucky that [life]’s lasted so long because I’ve done so many things that could have knocked me out of it. But somehow I just always have the feeling that He knows what He’s doing. It’s been good so far, and it’ll probably continue to be.”

May is National Lyme Disease Awareness Month, and it brings an opportunity for Lyme patients, activists, and educators to share tips and open up about Lyme and tick-borne diseases. In this column, we highlight the struggles of celebrities and talk about preventive and cure measures.

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