R&B legend Toni Braxton recently revealed that she underwent heart surgery to prevent what would have been a fatal heart attack.
"My left main coronary artery was 80% blocked," the seven-time Grammy Award-winning singer told PEOPLE. "The doctors told me I could’ve had a massive heart attack, I would not have survived."
Braxton described the procedure as "traumatic," the heart damage was the result of her battle with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), which is the most common form of the debilitating disease which causes the body to attack itself.
"I kept putting it off thinking, 'Oh, I'm fine. I'll be okay.' But my doctor was persistent and I went to get tested in the last week of September. I did a specialized test and they looked at my heart and saw some abnormalities," Braxton tells PEOPLE. "I found out that I needed a coronary stent. My left main coronary artery was 80% blocked. The doctors told me I could've had a massive heart attack, I would not have survived."
"It was a traumatic moment for me. I was in shock," she recalls. "I remember that day because my chest was aching often, just hurting. And I thought I was just sad because unfortunately my sister [Traci Braxton] had just passed and I thought, 'Wow, I'm really aching in my heart for my sister.' And come to find out, of course I was sad about my sister, but I also had underlying health issues. It was my body talking to me, telling me something's not quite right."
She was treated with emergency surgery and a stent was inserted in her heart to keep the artery open.
"It was really a scary moment," the Grammy-winning artist says. "Had I not gotten that test, my life would've been different."
Braxton has been vocal about how SLE has affected her life and her organs. This year she is partnering with Aurinia's Get Uncomfortable campaign ahead of May's Lupus Awareness Month. The campaign encourages those with Lupus to prioritize their health by going to the doctor and completing routine testing to help prevent irreversible kidney damage, specifically women of color.
"It's important to get those screenings — simple things," she says. "The goal here is long life and old age."
"I know we're all scared sometimes to go to the doctor. Especially for me having lupus, I was scared, I didn't want to know. But I find that knowing is empowering and it gets my doctors on top of my lupus and my kidney health. And that's the most important thing," she adds that she has kidney screenings every three months.
She also told People that she recently reflected on how her lupus diagnosis 15 years ago made her feel "ashamed." She added, "They made me feel ashamed. 'Don't tell anyone. You won't be able to work. No one will hire you.' And so now I'm an advocate for talking about it. It's nothing to be ashamed of — kidney health, healthcare, lupus nephritis — it's important to talk about it."
The mother of two noted that "There are good days and bad days. I'm going to be honest, sometimes the bad days get me down. I'm not superwoman. I like to think I am. I like to feel like I'm that boss b— all the time, but I'm also a human. When my body tells me to take it down and relax, I have to listen to it."