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Health And Family

‘It can happen to anyone’: Janeena Chan recalls facial paralysis, advises Justin Bieber

Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo - Philstar.com
âIt can happen to anyoneâ: Janeena Chan recalls facial paralysis, advises Justin Bieber
From left: TV and events host Janeena Chan; In this file photo taken on September 13, 2021 Canadian singer Justin Bieber arrives for the 2021 Met Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Justin Bieber on Friday told fans in a video posted to Instagram that he's been diagnosed with Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, which is causing him partial facial paralysis. The 28-year-old pop singer recently announced he was pausing his Justice World Tour due to illness, hours before his first slated concert in Toronto.
Philstar.com/Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo; AFP/Angela Weiss

MANILA, Philippines — Tears seemed to start welling from Janeena Chan’s eyes when reminded about her bout with facial paralysis.

As a model and events and TV host, Janeena banks on her looks for livelihood. But in 2016, just as she retouched her lipstick in preparation to go onstage to host a live event, she immediately noticed that something was wrong: she could not move half of her face!

“As in on the spot, mag-hohost ako then oh my gosh, ‘yung half of my smile ‘di na nagsma-smile… Even my winking couldn’t be done by my eye; my eyebrows couldn’t go up and down. Really, the half was frozen."

Hence, instead of the ballroom, Janeena was rushed to the emergency room and luckily, the last attending physical therapist for the day was still in the hospital to give her immediate treatment. 

“I was super shocked. We left everything at the event. I can’t host now, obviously. So we went straight to the rehab doctor and buti na lang, they were about to close na, but naabutan pa the last rehab doctor. And we got the last PT (physical therapy) session na rin, agad-agad," she recounted in an exclusive interview with Philstar.com following her hosting of beauty brand Cetaphil’s recent press launch.

But that was just the beginning.

Janeena was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy, which Mayo Clinic defined as a condition that suddenly causes weakness in the muscles on one side of the face. So when she recently read about international popstar Justin Bieber postponing his world tour due to Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, a similar condition that manifests as facial paralysis, “it brought back so many memories” to Janeena.

“Apparently, it’s like Bell’s Palsy, it’s what I had, plus shingles is what he has, mas severe pa,” she said.

“May pagka-Justin Bieber pero delayed,” she described her condition.

Related: What is Ramsay Hunt syndrome? An explainer on Justin Bieber's facial paralysis

For that month that Janeena could not move the left side of her pretty face, even eating was a struggle.

“I was like a broken doll," she sobbed.

“Of course, sobrang traumatic din for me kasi s’yempre, this is my life. I have to stop all my work for one month… Hindi s’ya masakit pero it was hard to sip from the straw. It was hard to eat. Tabingi talaga. Malala talaga.”

Since posting about her experiences on social media, many fellow victims have come forward, including millennials and people from the younger generation who have fallen prey to facial paralysis because of stress.

“It was weird, definitely, for a month halos. At nag-bloat din ako because of steroids. So para akong matamlay tignan. Parang resting bitch face… Nakakatakot talaga s’ya and it can happen to anyone.”

Fortunately, after a month, Janeena recovered and has since been vocal about her ordeal as part of her advocacy to reach out to fellow victims. Whether or not Bieber would read about this, she shared how she won over Bell’s Palsy:

Go to the doctor as soon as you see the signs

“Some of the symptoms would be ringing on the ears, so for those who experience parang nabibingi or noise, that’s a sign na. Akala ko may ear infection lang ako eh... I was actually going to the EENT (Eye, Ears, Nose and Throat doctor) that time, pero ‘yung EENT ko that same day, on that day when I was going to host, wala s’ya, nasa conference," said Janeena.

Apart from ringing in her ear, her head was also heavy before the paralysis struck.

“Mabigat ‘yung ulo. Akala ko vertigo lang. Hindi naman migraine pero mabigat at vertigo… Since mabigat nga ‘yung head ko, nag-nap muna ako sa car, paggising ko, nag-retouch ng lipstick, tabingi na, ‘yun na ‘yun.”

Her advice then is to act fast once this happens because Bell’s Palsy could paralyze the face for life.

“And buti na lang kasi without it, your face could be more paralyzed pa within 48 hours. ‘Pag pinatagal mo without PT? Lalala s’ya!”

Have enough sleep, exercise

Although Janeena was not so stressed at the time when she had the condition, she professed that she was not exercising and sleeping well at that time.

“I think I was doing so much. Hindi naman super stressed pero tuloy-tuloy lang. I was busy but not really active in a healthy way. And I think parang consecutive puyat din.”

She has so far not experienced a relapse, but there were times when she just suddenly woke up in the middle of a snooze. If this happens, her recommendation is to just take more rest.

“Now, I’ve been working out na. It really helps, ha,” added the TV host, who now has a personal trainer to oversee her daily workout. She has also been eating healthier and following a Keto-like diet, but without the calorie count. For three months, she was asked to go on a strict zero-carbohydrate diet, and now she just tastes carbs if she would crave for them.

Related: Review: Is a 21-day Keto diet effective?

Faith and alternative medicine

“I would honestly (recommend) kung kaya n’ya (Justin), kasi what really helped me is Acupuncture. Aside from prayers because honestly, I know that’s he’s such a believer of God. ‘Di ba ‘yung albums n’ya about his faith? So I guess this is God’s will, that He’s using this to raise awareness for a bigger issue. Tingin ko kakayanin naman n’ya. But I think Acupuncture would really help. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine because that’s what helped me aside from PT,” said Janeena.

“Acupuncture is like wakening up the face,” she said about her near everyday ritual that she used to complement her continuous medication. 

Related: How to recover from ‘Long COVID’: Doctor shares tips

B vitamins and warm compress

According to Janeena, her doctor advised her to avoid close contact with an electric fan or an air conditioner on her face especially when she is sweating. Her doctor said that a warm compress on the face, just like what one does after a massage or a spa session, is good for the nerves.

She also relaxes her nerves through a simple beauty regimen of using a cleanser, followed by toner, and her favorite serum or moisturizer – a three-step process for day and night. She makes sure to sleep with skincare like the gentle Cetaphil, and her favorite for “good vibes” – Guerlain in honey scent – “mahal pero sulit kasi ang bango talaga,” she attested.

To nourish her nerves from within, she regularly takes Vitamin B complex, the so-called “nerve vitamins.”

Set a goal

During her ordeal, Janeena thought her face paralysis would never end, but having a prior commitment also helped push her to recover faster.

“Because I also had to host a big pageant by the end of the month, Mr. and Ms. Chinatown, kasi I was a ‘Chinoy TV’ host and that’s going to air on ABS-CBN then, so big event. Tapos nakahanda na ‘yung gowns ko and everything, so sabi ko, ‘Okay, this is my challenge. Eyes on the prize! Tiwala lang!’,” she shared.

“May goal kami. I was so persistent na kailangang gumaling.”

Stay calm and positive

If there was something good that came out from Janeena's experience, it was that her attitude about life changed. She learned to stay chill and literally relax her nerves as much as possible.

“It’s such a big lesson. So every time when I’m about to complain about something, I just thought about how grateful I am na, now, look, tiwala lang and pray lang and of course do what you can to bring your good state of health,” she vouched.

“And now that the world is opening up again, everyone’s getting busier again, back to our usual problems, I guess it’s just a reminder to take care of your health talaga and to slow down. Don’t sweat the small stuff… kalma lang – don’t try to be a people-pleaser… if you know that your heart is in the right place and your intentions are good, ‘pag alam mong God knows your heart, you shouldn’t worry na so much… Everything is a bonus as long as you’re healthy and the things that you prioritize are there – your family, your health. And there will always be bad days naman talaga. Pero just stay hopeful.”

RELATED: Catriona Gray can’t believe menstruation used on faces vs acne; reacts to menstrual leave

HEALTH TIPS

JANEENA CHAN

JUSTIN BIEBER

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