Robin Williams' widow reveals comedian only had '3 years left' due to brain disease at time of death
Published 03/11/2015 | 16:12
Robin Williams was suffering from a debilitating brain disease when he died by suicide, with his widow insisting it was this and not depression which killed him.
The much-loved actor took his own life in August 2014 at the age of 63 and it was only after his death that his wife Susan was able to find out what he'd been suffering from. The condition is called Diffuse Lewy Body Dementia, or Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), a type of dementia which can cause hallucinations, problems with motor skills and peaks and troughs in mental state.
"I've spent this last year trying to find out what killed Robin," Susan told People magazine. "To understand what we were fighting, what we were in the trenches fighting, and one of the doctors said, 'Robin was very aware that he was losing his mind and there was nothing he could do about it.'
"This was a very unique case and I pray to God that it will shed some light on Lewy bodies for the millions of people and their loved ones who are suffering with it. Because we didn't know. He didn't know.
"It was not depression that killed Robin. Depression was one of let's call it 50 symptoms, and it was a small one."
DLB is often misdiagnosed because the symptoms are so difficult to pinpoint. For Robin, they presented as increased anxiety, problems moving and delusional episodes, with things getting worse over the last 12 months of his life and increasingly bad just before he passed away.
Even though he was in regular contact with doctors, it was only his autopsy that allowed them to discover what was wrong.
"I know now the doctors, the whole team was doing exactly the right things," Susan said. "It's just that this disease was faster than us and bigger than us. We would have gotten there eventually."
She also appeared on Good Morning America on Tuesday (03Nov15), where she explained she isn't angry at her husband for ending his life.
"I got to tell him, 'I forgive you 50 billion per cent, with all my heart. You're the bravest man I've ever known,'" she said of the day his body was found. "You know, we were living a nightmare."
Susan initially thought her husband was a hypochondriac but as time wore on she began to see the vast swathe of symptoms he was fighting, and she says his life expectancy was about three years.
"It's chemical warfare in the brain, and we can't find it till someone dies, definitively,” she said. “There's no cure."