Toni Braxton is getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Amid Lupus Awareness Month, Braxton sat down with IHeartRadio's Black Information Network to discuss how she's navigated the disease for over 15 years, admitting that she had gotten lax about going to the doctor before a recent, life-threatening complication. "I'm sitting here talking about lupus, but I wasn't going to go to the doctor about a month ago," the Grammy award-winning singer told BIN. "I had a really bad health scare. I was not gonna go. And I went. Something just made me go, and it saved my life. I would not be here having this interview with you today had I not gone to that appointment that day."
Braxton recalled the health complication being "the scariest moment" of her life. However, it was that particular scare that propelled her to get involved with the Get Uncomfortable campaign, a movement bringing awareness to lupus and normalizing all of the "uncomfortable" tasks that come with managing the disease.
The Braxton Family Values alum highlighted the importance of the campaign for women of color, who are disproportionately more likely to develop lupus, an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation affecting the joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart, and lungs. "You got to pee in a cup, tinkle in a cup. You gotta get poked. You got to get comfortable with being uncomfortable because it could save your life. And although peeing in a cup sucks, kidney failure is way worse," she told BIN.
With the help of famous friends like Nick Cannon, who has also been open about having lupus, Braxton said she's learning to prioritize her health and get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Keep scrolling to read our Q&A with Toni Braxton about navigating lupus and the Get Uncomfortable campaign.
Where were you diagnosed with lupus, and what symptoms did you experience that led to that diagnosis?
I was diagnosed in the state of California at Cedar Sinai. I've been living with lupus for more than 15 years, and I've had some serious complications, but it was kind of difficult for them to diagnose. I just remember not feeling my best often, and everything kind of has to line up. One doctor just said, "Let's just do some lupus panel testing," and it just lit up.
How did you manage your symptoms while also managing your personal life and your career?
[Lupus] affects so many things in my life. I'm learning how to pace it. Some days, I do great and other days, I do lousy. But I have had to decide, 'You know what, Toni, stop trying to balance everything.' I can't balance it all the time, and I have to accept that it's not going to be balanced, and you just have to live in the now. You have to be kind to yourself.
With this month being Lupus Awareness Month, can you speak on the Get Uncomfortable campaign and your involvement?
[I'm] delighted to be a part of it because I didn't want to go to the doctor. I'm uncomfortable having those routine tests. You got to pee in a cup, tinkle in a cup. You gotta get poked. You got to get comfortable with being uncomfortable because it could save your life. And although peeing in a cup sucks, kidney failure is way worse.
Specifically, with Black and Hispanic women, why is this so important for them to be tuned into this campaign and to get tested?
The numbers are so high [in both communities]. I had no idea that lupus and arthritis were so prevalent in the women of color community. And early diagnosis can change everything. I know we don't have time because we take care of family and everyone else, and we tend to put ourselves on the back burner, but we have to start doing just 20 minutes for ourselves, that annual doctor appointment. If that's the only thing you can do, maybe the day before your birthday, like, you know what, I'm gonna go to the doctor. I'm gonna make an appointment so I can just annually get myself checked out.
Have you been able to connect with Nick Cannon or any others in the industry who also navigate both having lupus and their careers?
Nick's a warrior. We talk. We used to be each other's warriors. If I got sick, I would reach out to him and if he got sick, he would reach out to me. I'm so proud of him, how he's been able to navigate this illness with his talk shows and the things he's doing. And I'm sure he has good and bad days. I know how difficult it can be to put that smile on some days when you're aching and just down inside. I just commend him for doing all the wonderful things he's able to do.
Do you have any advice for someone like Jamie Foxx, who's been undergoing his own medical complication of his own on how to deal with something that's so private in public?
It's a choice. I think when you're going through things, it's hard for you to be an advocate while you're going through it. For me, I got through it. I made it through, so I can talk about it. I think it's difficult for people who are in the now of their bodies. I don't know what he's [Jamie Foxx] going through or what's going on in his life, but I would imagine right now he's trying to recuperate or recover. So it would be difficult for him to talk to someone about it because he's trying to see what's going on with his own body.
If there's one thing that you would want the world to know about those who deal with lupus, what would you say?
That we hide it. I don't think people know how much [people with lupus] hide it. We act like we're feeling great most of the time, and most of the time, we're not. We've gotten so good at that mask and making people think that everything's okay, so people say, "Well, I didn't know that they were that ill. I had no idea," because we've become very good actors and actresses, I've learned.
And don't let anyone shame you. I had people who shamed me when I first found out I had lupus, like, 'Don't tell anyone. You'll never work again. Don't share this; just live with it.' But I found once I talked about it, it empowered me, and it gave me the confidence that I needed. Okay, I have lupus, but it doesn't have me, and I can still work. Maybe not the way I once did, but I can still work. Toni's still in here.
To learn more about lupus and the Get Uncomfortable campaign, visit www.getuncomfortable.com.
This interview was edited for clarity.