​Chapped Lips No More!

Posted by Elizabeth Forst in Life After Paralysis on June 22, 2022 # Lifestyle

EBMy recent visit to the dermatologist didn't fare so well. The liquid nitrogen gun emerged, and I was zapped on my forehead and lower lip to prevent cancer spots from developing out of my fair-skin freckled face. As my dermatologist placed her beer goggle-style magnifying eyewear examining my lower lip, she asked me a question.” Do you wear SPF sunscreen Chapstick on a regular basis? You have a questionable spot on your lower lip." My response seemed silly to me. Obviously not, I'm a full quadriplegic and can't use my hands or arms to apply such things. Quite the conundrum, as Colorado is quite possibly one of the driest states in the country, and because of our high elevation, it is high sun… A perfect storm for exposure and skin cancer.

The cogs of my MacGyver brain started turning. Surely there must be a way to create a system with a clamp or an articulating arm where a small SPF Chapstick could be attached to self-apply during the summer months when the sun is extra hot. Especially since I have a service dog, I am out and about in the sunshine daily for 30 to 40 minutes, plenty of time to cause sunburn. My dermatologist encourages sun prevention techniques every visit, yet these practices are specific for someone that can utilize their hands and arms to apply sunscreen and lip balm, something I do not have the pleasure of doing. I understand the dangers of prolonged sun exposure as I have been in the hot seat of a Moh’s surgeon, having a basal cell removed from my upper lip and on the top of my head. I have had multiple moles removed from various parts of my body over many years, starting at the age of 16. I am now 44. This will only get worse as I get older.

Being a quadriplegic, craftiness and creativity with gadgets and gizmos is essential. Most ideas are trial and error; you win some, and you lose some. After a quick search on Amazon for articulating armatures and clamps, I found something very simple and inexpensive to attach to my office table conveniently located at mouth level so that a sun-protecting Chapstick might attach. Within a couple of days, my new sun-protecting gadget arrived and, within minutes, was appropriated in the right spot for my wheelchair and me to self-apply. I found an inexpensive 30 SPF lip balm from the natural grocery store, and for less than 40 dollars for the Chapstick and armature clamp system, I now have a successful barrier against the harmful rays of the summer sun. Not only that, during the winter months, my chapped lips will be no more.

chapstick applicator

Sometimes it is necessary to think out of the box, especially in my situation as a quadriplegic living alone, sometimes for hours without any caregiver or aide to assist. Something as simple as applying Chapstick, which might seem like a simple task to many, is something that I must become creative and thoughtful on how to attain my own independence. Every time I roll up to my office table and apply my own sunscreen with the clamp jutting out over my computer, I give a little smile and an imaginary pat on the back, congratulating yet another fun, innovative and new way to help myself.

Anything is possible, keep on keeping on…

Elizabeth Forst is a nomad Yogi, world traveler and spinal cord injury survivor. Enjoying the mountain life in Denver, Colorado, she is a doctor of physical therapy with roots based both in Western medicine and the Eastern traditions; understanding the connection between mind, body, and spirit is her ultimate life pursuit. Through her writing and advocacy efforts locally and nationally, she is a beacon of light and a source of positive exploration for others traversing the challenges of paralysis. Find her entire collection at: www.ebforst.com

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.