Padma Lakshmi sheds light on endometriosis

Padma Lakshmi sheds light on endometriosis

PERVASIVE PAIN

What started as cramps at age 13 got progressively worse over time. “I was bedridden for several days a month with headaches, cramping, severe dysmenorrhea, nausea, numbness, lower back pain, digestive issues, moodiness, swelling, and bloating—and when I say swelling, I mean a full cup size every month,” she says.

For years, she wondered why she couldn’t handle what other women seemed to take in stride. Maybe I’m exaggerating, she thought. Maybe I’m crazy. Maybe I’m being a sissy. “I didn’t feel like having sex, so it affected my romantic relationships. I was embarrassed to call in sick, so I wouldn’t take modeling jobs when my period was due,” she says. “It locked me out of my own life.”

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On a particularly rough day in 2006, Lakshmi was doubled over in pain and rushed to the hospital. Doctors performed surgery to remove what they thought was scar tissue but was actually endometrial tissue blocking her small intestine. Though they told her she’d likely be fine, a month later her symptoms returned.

Finally, a doctor suggested seeing a specialist—and after decades of pain, Lakshmi learned she had endometriosis. “Doctor Seckin was the first one to really give it a name,” she says. “He didn’t think I was crazy—he listened to me.”

While endometriosis has no cure, treatment can ease symptoms and boost a woman’s chances of getting pregnant. Drug therapy can help with symptoms, but surgery to remove endometriosis patches is often more effective and may improve fertility.

Lakshmi had laparoscopic excision surgery in 2006—and her doctors found more than they expected. “Tissue was all over my fallopian tubes, my ovaries, everything,” she says. “I had stitches on major organs and 19 biopsies—17 came back positive for endometriosis.

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CALL TO ACTION

As Lakshmi thought about how long she’d suffered, her relief morphed into anger. Why wasn’t she diagnosed sooner? Why didn’t her doctors know her pain wasn’t normal? Why wasn’t anyone speaking out about this disease?

She realized endometriosis was largely under the radar—and because of her visibility as a celebrity, she was in a unique position to do something. In 2009, she partnered with her surgeon, Tamer Seckin, to create the Endometriosis Foundation of America (EndoFound), which advocates for patients, raises awareness, and funds research.

As co-founder, she talks about endometriosis openly and extensively. She gives lectures at schools, private companies, and universities like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she’s now a visiting scholar and works with research scientists on understanding the interplay between diet, nutrition, and health.

“Padma remains a force of nature to motivate our team of scientists working on endometriosis,” says Linda Griffith, director of MIT’s Center for Gynepathology Research, adding that Lakshmi’s ongoing visits— she’s been doing it since 2009—have inspired many MIT students. 

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  • Grace Larsen

    After years of excessively painful periods, a serious loss of quality of life, and a series of uninformed and uninterested doctors, Dr. Seckin and Dr. Goldstein turned my life around. I was told I woke up from my surgery almost a year ago with a smile on my face, and I haven't stopped since. Before I heard of Dr. Seckin,…

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    Dr Seckin and his team gave me back my life! Tomorrow will be 1 month since my surgery and I feel great. Dr. Seckin, Dr Liu, and Dr Goldstein are not only beyond words talented and amazing Doctors, but they are also genuinely wonderful and caring people. I cannot say enough great things about Holly, Asiye and Kim as well.…

  • Anna Lu

    Dr. Seckin and his staff spared me from years and years of heavy periods and unbearable endometriosis pain. After having surgery with him (my first) I can now function like a regular human. No more eating NSAIDs like candy and calling out sick from work. Thank you, Dr. Seckin!

  • Sheena Wright

    I underwent surgery with Dr. Seckin in 2017 and have felt like a new woman ever since. If you have, or suspect you have endometriosis, Dr. Seckin and his compassionate team of surgeons and staff are a must-see.

  • Angela Aro

    I have struggled with endometriosis and adenomyosis since first starting my period at 13. I was diagnosed at 21 and what followed was a series of unsuccessful surgeries and treatments. My case was very aggressive and involved my urinary tract system and my intestines. After exhausting all of my local doctors I was lucky enough to find Dr. Seckin. We…

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    Seckin and Dr. Goldstein changed my life!

  • Kristin Sands

    Like so many women who have tirelessly sought a correct diagnosis and proper, thorough medical treatment for endometriosis, I found myself 26 years into this unwanted journey without clear answers or help from four previous gynecological doctors and two emergency laparoscopic surgeries. I desperately wanted to avoid the ER again; a CT scan for appendicitis also revealed a likely endometrioma…