If ovarian pain and reproductive issues weren’t scary enough, it always hits home harder when your fellow millennial and favorite late-night star is rushed to the emergency room with ovarian cysts.
Wednesday night, the A Little Late with Lily Singh star, Lily Singh, revealed she’d been hospitalized for ovarian cysts via a funny yet worrisome Instagram video. The post featured 33-year old Singh in a hospital bed, wearing a mask, while connected to tubes. She wrote over the video, “Learning there are cysts on my ovaries.” In true late-night comedian fashion, Singh used Anderson Paak and Bruno Mar’s “Smokin Out the Window” as the soundtrack to her 30-second video, in which Singh rolled her eyes at the audacity of her ovaries “wilding out.” Singh noted that her ER visit resulted from complications with not one, but both of her ovaries, adding, “No but actually. It hurts and I’m tired lol but I truly expect nothing less than my organs doing the most. After all I am their mother 💅🏽😩”
After the announcement, fans, friends, and family rushed to Instagram to leave their well wishes and concerns. Host of America’s Got Talent, Howie Mandel, wrote, “I’m here if you need anything,” while actor and mental health advocate Brittany Furlan responded, “ Welcome to the club Cyster ❤️ sending love.”
Although general pelvic pain was normal to Singh, the sudden severity seemed to come as a surprise. That’s the scariest part: the unpredictability of it all.
The Mayo Clinic explains that ovarian cysts are “fluid-filled sacs or pockets in an ovary or on its surface,” and most of them “develop as a result of your menstrual cycle (functional cysts).” In fact, every month, women make one follicle or corpus lutem cyst when we have our menstrual cycle. According to Oash, Ovarian cysts are not only common in most women with periods, but are even more common among post-menopausal women, and can be caused by any number of things, including “hormonal problems, endometriosis, pregnancy, and severe pelvic infections.”
Since COVID, more and more young women have reported discovering serious issues after coming in for mere ovarian cyst pain. The NIH reports that approximately 5 million women of reproductive age in the United States are affected by PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome), and ovarian cysts, fibroids, and PCOS disproportionately affect women of color, like Singh (and myself).
As someone who has dealt with ovarian cysts and chronic pelvic pain, and comes from a line of women with a history of similar problems, Singh’s ER trip is a wakeup call. At 22, I underwent a LEEP procedure to have my ovarian cyst removed—something I had never heard of before. My procedure opened up the conversation with my mother, who disclosed she had painful cysts, “one the size of a mango and another the size of a golf ball.” Access to information is everything, and often for women of color, that isn’t a conversation you ever even have with your OBGYN or the women in your family. Due to lack of adequate health care, access to information, and adequate funding for procedures, women of color often do not even realize they have ovarian issues, much less get to treat them.
Mayo Clinic notes that large or ruptured cysts “can cause serious symptoms,” including pelvic pain, fullness or heaviness in the abdomen and bloating, and if gone untreated, these can cause serious pain and damage. For women of color like me, who started having pelvic pain and complications in college, college is the very first time we find ourselves with accessible health care. It’s often also the first time reproductive conversations arise.
Singh’s honesty and vulnerability around pelvic and ovarian pain has opened the conversation and alerted more women to not walk in fear, but to be informed. The road to better health starts with one disclosure, one transparent conversation. Singh’s challenges are not only a wake up call, but an urgent message to all of us to get checked. Stories like Singh’s give me motivation to continue to seek answers, to pay attention to my body and to demand a healthier future. Thank you, Lily!