Lupus Can’t Keep Toni Braxton Off the Stage

R&B superstar Toni Braxton shares strategies for living well with lupus—and why she won’t stop performing.

Ellen Byron
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Toni Braxton’s tips for taming lupus flare triggers.

Lupus flare trigger: long work hours
Toni used to power through the fatigue of juggling a demanding career and raising children.
Tame it: trim your schedule
The singing star kept her recent tour brief to test her stamina and keep stress from triggering a flare. And when she can’t clear her calendar? “There are days I don’t feel like putting on a smiling face, but I make myself,” says Toni, who relies on humor, like watching the Ellen DeGeneres Show, to brighten her mood.

Lupus flare trigger: too much sun
Experts say overexposure to sunlight is a common lupus trigger. “Summer is challenging, because the sun is not my friend,” says Toni.
Tame it: shield your skin
Before heading out, Toni takes care to wear protective clothing and sunscreen even when it’s not summer.

Lupus flare trigger: feeling keyed up
“I tried to meditate, I tried yoga, but I just can’t turn my brain off,” Toni admits. “It’s too much time for me to think.”
Tame it: take a mental vacation
“I listen to music; I play the piano. I do things that will take me out of my world for a moment.”

Lupus flare trigger: the stress of staying silent
On the advice of a close friend, Toni kept her diagnosis a secret for two years, for fear it could stall her career or affect her insurance coverage if she went public with it.
Tame it: make a connection
Toni says being open about her condition has been empowering, and that keeping things bottled up could deter you from getting the care you need. “Tell people what you’re feeling; it’s all about you getting healthy,” she says.

Toni volunteers for Lupus LA, and today she urges others to connect with groups like the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation ( and and The Lupus Foundation of America ( “As many bad days as we have, remember that the good days are coming—they’ll be back,” says Toni. “There are new medications coming out geared especially for lupus patients. That’s exciting.”

Know the signs and symptoms of lupus
More than half of patients go at least four years before receiving a correct diagnosis, estimates the Lupus Foundation of America (LFA). Tell your healthcare provider right away if you notice any of the symptoms below—and that includes alerting your doctor if they occur after you’ve been diagnosed.

Sometimes, new or worsening symptoms mean your treatment is no longer working, says Gary Gilkeson, MD, a medical adviser for the LFA. So if you have a flare, tell your doctor; you may need a physical exam, lab tests or a change in medication.

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Joint pain or swelling; muscle pain
  • Fever or swollen glands
  • Sores in the mouth or nose
  • Swelling around your eyes, or in your feet, legs and hands
  • Chest pain when breathing deeply
  • Rashes, especially a butterfly-shaped rash across cheeks and nose
  • Sun sensitivity
  • Fingers turning white and/or blue when cold (Raynaud’s syndrome)
October 2013