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2019 American Music Awards - Press Room

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Twelve years after being diagnosed with lupus, Toni Braxton is opening up about living with the autoimmune disease — including what it was like to tell her boys about her illness. According to the singer, one of her sons was moved to tears after learning of her diagnosis.

“I remember having to tell my kids that I have lupus. It was difficult,” the singer told Prevention.  “I remember that feeling. He cried and said, ‘mommy’s ok.”

Initially, doctors were unsure of what was causing Braxton’s ailments. They just knew that her blood count was extremely low and “everything was wrong.” It wasn’t until the singer took a trip to the emergency room that it was revealed that lupus was the underlying issue.

“They said I have lupus and it loves my heart,” she recalled. “They also said I need a heart transplant. I will never forget that as long as I live.”

Thankfully, Braxton did not need to undergo heart transplant surgery, but she admits that being diagnosed with the disease, which is characterized by the immune system attacking healthy tissue, was a horrifying experience.

“I was petrified, depressed, and scared, but I realized I had to change my life,” she confessed. “I may have lupus, but I decided I was not going to be a victim. Now, I listen to my body.”

For Braxton, listening to her body means reducing the number of performances she chooses to accept. “I can’t do five or six shows a week like I used to, but I can do three or four shows,” she admits. “I’m not a dancer but I do the 1-2 electric slide.”

Additionally, she leans on her family, follows a healthy diet and exercise regimen, and uses CBD to manage pain.

“I’m becoming plant-based. I’m in the process,” she explained. “But I’m going fully plant-based. It’s making me feel better, so there is some truth to it. But I do miss a good burger!”

As a result of changing her diet, she’s noticed improvements in her blood work and energy levels. Being honest about how she’s feeling, however, is still a battle. But Braxton says that she’s slowly learning to be more transparent.

“Lupus doesn’t have a face, we hide it. We have the tendency to pretend we feel great, when we don’t,” she confessed. “I’m learning to say it’s OK that I don’t feel well and that it’s perfectly fine to take that time for myself.”

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