Toni Braxton, 55, was on the TODAY show recently discussing her latest health scare. The singer, who has been open about her systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) diagnosis, revealed that the disease almost led to a heart attack. Braxton had to get a coronary stent–a device placed in coronary arteries to ensure the heart gets blood–to prevent a blockage from occurring. This took place last year around the time her sister Traci died from cancer.
“It (was) put in at a really, really scary moment,” the singer shared. She added that the experience was “surreal.”
Braxton found out she needed a stent after visiting the doctor for an appointment. She set up the time to go because she was having chest pains. The former TV personality almost bailed on the appointment because she felt she was ok and attributed the pain she was feeling to grief from losing her sister.
“I just thought it was sadness,” Braxton said on the show. “It turned out to be much more serious, and I just dismissed the signs … and a lot of people tend to do that.”
After examining the star, her doctor informed her that she needed a stent placed “immediately.”
“A couple days after they did the procedure they told me that it was touch and go,” she told hosts Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager. The singer went on to say that if she had skipped that doctor’s appointment she would have had a widowmaker heart attack, which occurs when the biggest artery in your heart is blocked.
“I would have had a massive heart attack and would not have survived,” she said.
Overcoming health hurdles has been a big part of Braxton’s story. She first revealed she had lupus in 2010 but was diagnosed in 2008. Since her diagnosis, she’s become an ambassador for the Aurinia Pharmaceuticals’ Get Uncomfortable campaign–an initiative to get individuals with lupus to engage in routine testing to prevent kidney damage.
On the TODAY show, Braxton also admitted she initially felt ashamed of having lupus and didn’t want to go public about it. However, she says people helped her see that her condition isn’t something to be ashamed of, giving her the courage to speak openly about it.
“It’s so empowering when people come up to me and say, ‘I have lupus, too, and you’ve helped me so much,’” she says.
Unfortunately, lupus does affect Braxton’s ability to perform at the pace that she used to. She said she can do one-off shows but nothing long term.
“It gets challenging for me because I know I’ll never be able to do a show seven days again,” the Grammy winner said. Nonetheless, she is embracing this new phase of her life, feels “proud of herself” and said the “tough self-love” she gave herself early in her career has helped her get through all the ups and downs.
She also made sure to encourage anyone with a chronic health condition to seek medical care.
“You’ve got to get those screenings done,” she said. “It’s very important.”