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 at MIT, is pushing to develop new treatments for the illness.



Cookbook author Padma Lakshmi is hoping to raise awareness and help tens of millions of women who suffer from endometriosis, a painful illness that can cause infertility.

The 39-year-old model and host of reality cooking show "Top Chef," who is pregnant with her first child, has been talking about her two-decade struggle with the disorder, in which tissue that normally lines the uterus migrates to other parts of the body, causing pain and swelling.

At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), she said her decision to go public with her struggle was prompted by a desire to help young women avoid the suffering she has experienced.

"I remember school dances that I didn't go to, mid-terms I failed and family occasions that I missed," she said. "Only now do I realize how much of my life was mangled and distorted by this illness."

Lakshmi has become the driving force behind the Endometriosis Foundation of America, which together with researchers at MIT, is pushing to develop new treatments for the illness.

Linda Griffith, professor of biochemical engineering at MIT and former recipient of a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant," has raised $10 million in public and private grants for the new Center for Gynepathology Research to study the illness.

Griffith, who also suffers from endometriosis, which is believed to be a chronic inflammatory condition, said little is known about the illness that affects up to 90 million women worldwide.


Surgery is often required to remove scar tissue that can attach itself to the ovaries, bowels and lining of the abdominal cavity.

"It's like roots in a garden, with the womb being the garden," Lakshmi said. "Endometriosis attaches itself like weeds. You have to clean under the rocks and behind the fence and through the trees and get every last bit of it out."

Lakshmi, clad in a black designer mini-dress, captivated the crowd of MIT students and faculty by relating her story with a mixture of passion and humor.

After multiple surgeries for the condition she is now in the second trimester of her pregnancy and is due to give birth early in 2010.

Griffith said awareness of endometriosis is in its infancy, similar to where breast cancer stood in the early 1970s.

At that time, Betty Ford, wife of President Gerald Ford, was credited with breaking down taboos when she went public with news of her mastectomy in 1974.

Lakshmi hopes other celebrity sufferers, who include comedian Whoopi Goldberg, will lend their weight to her campaign by continuing to speak out publicly.

"I guard my privacy closely, and it seems contradictory when I'm standing here, talking about my period," she said. "But you always have to remember the greater goal. What's more important -- my privacy, or the lives of women? I chose the latter."

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'Top Chef''s Padma Lakshmi Gets Personal for a Cause
'Top Chef''s Padma Lakshmi Gets Personal for a Cause

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

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  • 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…

  • Emi O

    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…

  • Wilfredo Reyes

    Dr. Seckin literally gave my wife her life back. I am eternally grateful to him for his generous, determined spirit to see that Melanie finally live free from the prison bonds of Endometriosis.

  • Carla

    I am so grateful to Dr Seckin and Dr. Goldstein. My experience was nothing short of amazing. I was misdiagnosed with the location of my fibroids and have had a history of endometriosis. Dr. Seckin was the one who accurately diagnosed me. Dr Seckin and Dr. Goldstein really care about their patients and it shows. They listened to my concerns,…

  • Melissa Boudreau

    When I think of Dr. Seckin these are the words that come to mind. Gratitude, grateful, life-changing, a heart of gold. I feel compelled to give you a bit of background so you can understand the significance of this surgery for me. I am passionate about Endometriosis because it has affected me most of my life and I have a…

  • Jaclyn Harte

    Dr. Seckin and Dr. Goldstein radically changed my quality of life. They treat their patients with dignity & respect that I've personally never seen in the literally 25+ doctors I've seen for endometriosis. This summer, I had a surgery with Dr. Seckin & Goldstein. It was my first with them, but my 5th endo surgery. I couldn't believe the difference,…

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    I was in pain for 2 years. I was getting no answers, and because dr Goldstein and dr seckins were willing to see and treat me I'm finally feeling almost back to normal. They were very down to earth and helpful in my time of need. Dr Goldstein was easy to talk to and caring, she took care of me…

  • Nancy Costa

    Dr. Seckin is one of the best endometriosis surgeon. Every time I go to the office, he really listens to me and is always concerned about my issues. Dr Seckin's office staff are a delight and they always work with me. I feel I can leave everything to them and they will take care of it. Thank you to the…

  • 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…

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    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…