Actress Padma Lakshmi comes to MIT to raise awareness of endometriosis and help launch the new Center for Gynepathology.

Padma Lakshmi, actress and host of the popular television program “Top Chef,” admits that it feels a little odd to talk about her period in front of an audience of total strangers. But she has realized that sharing her own history with endometriosis, a disease caused when scar tissue builds up outside the uterus, could help others who suffer from the disease.

“I don’t want other girls to just sit there smiling silently like nothing is wrong,” Lakshmi said Friday at the launch of MIT’s new Center for Gynepathology, which will bring together engineers, scientists and physicians to study endometriosis. Sporting a black dress that showed off her baby bump, Lakshmi had the mostly female audience in a Stata Center auditorium captivated with her story.

Like many who suffer from endometriosis, including MIT Professor Linda Griffith, director of the new MIT center, Lakshmi endured the pain for years before being diagnosed. Doctors told her that she was overly sensitive, or exaggerating her symptoms. Some thought her pain might be due to scoliosis, others said it might be because “you’re Indian and you eat really spicy food.”

Lakshmi’s teenage years were filled with missed school dances and failed exams, all because she had to spend several days in bed every time she had her period. “My mother prepared me for it because she had it, too. She told me it was just our lot in life,” Lakshmi said.

Working as a model and actress in her 20s and 30s, the disease kept Lakshmi in its grip, while doctors kept telling her nothing was wrong. She tried hard to pretend that nothing was wrong, and to keep up the frenetic pace of her life. But she had to make accommodations. “Everything I scheduled in my life, I always had to look at the calendar and say, ‘Am I having my period that week?’” If so, the calendar stayed empty.

Lakshmi, who recently turned 39, soldiered on until one day three years ago, when she experienced some unexpected and heavy bleeding during a photo shoot. Her doctor told her to go to a specialist, laparoscopic surgeon Tamer Seckin.

On the day of her appointment, Lakshmi was in a hurry because she was supposed to go to a fashion dinner that night. After her exam, she was e-mailing on her BlackBerry while waiting for Seckin to come in with the results. When he did, he asked her to turn her BlackBerry off — a sign, she felt, that he had bad news. He told her she had endometriosis and that “if we don’t take care of it, you will lose the ability to become a mother.” He told her that she had sublimated the pain so much she didn’t even know how much pain she was in.

For Lakshmi, it was a breakthrough. “For the first time, somebody in the medical field wasn’t telling me that I was sensitive, or emotional, or overdramatic. For the first time, someone finally said, ‘You have a problem, and if you don’t do something about it, you will not be well.’”

Three surgeries later, Lakshmi can’t believe the difference in her life, in terms of her mood and productivity. “It’s like night and day,” she said. “I treat my employees better … I’m nicer to my mom … This is what life is supposed to be like. Life is not supposed to be filled with pain just because you are a woman.”

To help raise awareness of “the disease that people don’t want to talk about,” Lakshmi and Seckin recently started the Endometriosis Foundation of America. Lakshmi said she also hopes that more researchers will direct their attention to the disease, following MIT’s lead. “I’m very, very moved that somebody finally has been hearing the silent cries and tears of women across the country,” she said.

//newsoffice.mit.edu/2009/padma-event-1208

 

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Top Chef's Lakshmi details struggle with illness
Top Chef's Lakshmi details struggle with illness

Lakshmi [along with Dr. Seckin] has become the driving force behind the Endometriosis Foundation of America, which together with researchers…

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How Padma Lakshmi Struggles with Endometriosis Management
How Padma Lakshmi Struggles with Endometriosis Management

For years, Padma Lakshmi -- best known as the host of Bravo’s hit reality show “Top Chef” -- has suffered silently…

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Patient Reviews

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  • Rebecca Black

    Fast forward 5 years to find out incidentally I had a failing kidney. My left kidney was only functioning at 18%. During this time, I was preparing all my documents to send to Dr. Seckin to review. However, with this new information I put everything on hold and went to a urologist. After a few months, no one could figure…

  • Monique Roberts

    I'll never stop praising Dr. Seckin and his team. He literally gave me back my life.

  • Erin Brehm

    I had a wonderful experience working with Dr. Seckin and his team before, during and after my surgery. I came to Dr. Seckin having already had laparoscopic surgery for endometriosis 5 years prior, with a different surgeon. My symptoms and pain had returned, making my life truly challenging and my menstrual cycle unbearable. Dr. Seckin was quick to validate my…

  • Anita Schillhorn

    I came to Dr. Seckin after years of dealing with endometriosis and doctors who didn't fully understand the disease. He quickly ascertained what needed to be done, laid out the options along with his recommendation and gave me the time to make the right decision for me. My surgery went without a hitch and I'm healing very well. He and…

  • Nicholette Sadé

    Dr. Seckin brought me back to life! I am now 3 weeks into my recovery after my laparoscopy surgery, and I feel like a new and improved woman! Being diagnosed with Endometriosis, then 25yrs old in 2015, and discovering the severity of my case being stage 4, made me devastated. Dr. Seckin's vast knowledge of the disease, sincere empathy, and…

  • Jason Curry

    My wife had her laparoscopic excision surgery to remove endometriosis with Dr. Seckin on Jan 30, 2014. She doesn't write online reviews so I'm writing this on her behalf. I accompanied her with each office visit she had. The staff--Lucy and Kim, are very friendly, warm and professional. Dr. Seckin was excellent in every capacity. He spent a lot of…

  • Liz Filippelli

    He is an awesome doctor who saved my daughters life from debilitating endometriosis..she knew instantly upon awaking from surgery that she was better..that wad May and no complaints only praises for Dr. Wonderful Seckin!!

  • Karen N

    I was diagnosed with Endometriosis at 19. I saw several Endometriosis "Specialists" since then, had a few laproscopic surgeries to "remove" the endometriosis and continued to be in pain. I had a hysterectomy in 2012 and was told this would stop the pain once and for all. No such luck! Tired of spending days in bed with a heating pad,…

  • Lauren Rodriguez

    I researched and found Dr. Seckin after dealing with years of doctors who couldn't help me or refused to go the extra mile for their patients. I have to say I am truly blessed to have found such a compassionate and talented doctor. He is exquisite with everything he does, and both his team at the office and surgical team…

  • Kellya Vespa

    Dr. Seckin is a very skilled surgeon. There are not many doctors like him that truly understand the effects of endometriosis. I am lucky to have found him. The staff is wonderful too.

  • Meg Connolly

    Dr. Seckin truly LOVES what he does and cares about his patients from the bottom of his heart. My life has already changed in 3 weeks and I couldn’t be more grateful. Should I ever need another operation for endometriosis, Dr. Seckin will be the one to do it. I recommend him to anyone I come across with similar problems…

  • Elisandra O

    Dr. Seckin is an amazing Doctor he is very compassionate, caring and he will be honest with you. He's been my doctor for 19yrs and I am so grateful to have someone taking care of me that knows what he is doing and knows the best way to treat each and every situation. I would definitely recommend him and his…