How Veterans with Cancer and Depression May Benefit from Light Therapy
Annually, over 40,000 veterans in our country receive a cancer diagnosis. Few people know that a significant number of cancer cases among veterans are the consequence of toxic exposure that occurred in the military. During the last century, military members would often contact harmful agents such as asbestos, radiation, mustard gas, Agent Orange, heavy metals, PFAS, benzene, and lead. These have a strong connection with multiple forms of cancer, and it usually takes decades for a disease to develop. The most common cancer forms in veterans are lung cancer, bladder cancer, and prostate cancer.
Struggling with cancer is terrible and difficult enough by itself. Still, when a mental health diagnosis is also present, everything becomes considerably more challenging for the veteran. Between 15% and 25% of cancer patients come to suffer from depression due to the emotional burden of their physical illness. Veterans are even more vulnerable to depression, as well as to other mental health problems. Many are elderly and have to battle cancer alone and witnessed or partook in traumatizing situations during active duty.
Light Therapy Can Greatly Improve the Mood of Sick Veterans Who Also Have Depression
Because cancer and depression often co-occur in veterans, these brave people can reap the excellent benefits of light therapy by using a unique lamp. Veterans who have cancer may develop seasonal affective disorder, a form of depression related to changes in seasons. The majority of people with this mood disorder experience the symptoms of depression from late fall to spring. A sliver of hope is that seasonal affective disorder can be alleviated to a great extent by light therapy. This is how light therapy relieves the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder:
- It aligns the circadian rhythm, which is the 24-hour cycle of the brain
- It regulates brain levels of serotonin, which regulates mood
- It contributes to a stable and consistent sleep pattern
- It increases alertness during the day
The primary goal of light therapy in seasonal affective disorder is to compensate for the absence of exposure to sunlight that contributes to depression. Treatment begins in the fall and continues until spring.
The Positive Experience of Galvin with Light Therapy, Who Received a Lamp by Virtue of the Heroes and Sacrifices Campaign
As a 64-year-old U.S. Navy veteran who developed lung cancer due to heavy asbestos exposure during military service, Galvin was gifted a TheraLite Aura 10,000 LUX Light Therapy Lamp to help him with his seasonal affective disorder. The veteran was already suffering from this mood disorder before receiving his cancer diagnosis in the summer of 2019. However, having a malignant disease has significantly worsened his mental health during the fall and the winter.
The Heroes and Sacrifices Campaign gave Galvin the light therapy lamp, a novel initiative meant to brighten up the day of ill veterans by offering these strong people gift baskets filled with useful objects. "I was extremely surprised when I was announced that I had a package to sign for because I hadn't ordered anything. It's out of the question that it was a very pleasant surprise receiving so many useful items to help me during my recovery", says Galvin. He soon learned how to use his new light therapy lamp to benefit from it to the fullest.
"I've quickly become familiar with what light therapy involves and how to use my lamp, and I already developed a routine. At first, I was very skeptical that it could help me because I know how severe my symptoms are, but I'm happy to say that it really makes a difference", says the veteran. Everyone can join the Heroes and Sacrifices campaign to show their support and admiration for veterans. These courageous and relentless people fought for our country. You just have to fill out the form at the bottom of the official page and then send your gift basket or the objects you wish to donate for the ones the people behind the campaign regularly prepare for veterans with cancer.
"At first, I was very skeptical that it could help me because I know how severe my symptoms are, but I'm happy to say that it really makes a difference"
"The light therapy lamp is really effective, and I recommend getting one if you have seasonal affective disorder. Now that winter is almost here, I start my day with a half-hour of light therapy while I drink my coffee. I make sure to have the light shining directly into my eyes for the best results", says Galvin. Currently, over 200 gift baskets have been given to veterans with cancer by the team behind the Heroes and Sacrifices campaign. This is only the beginning. As we heard about it, we did not think twice and joined it by partnering up with the people who initiated it.
We have contributed to the Heroes and Sacrifices campaign to the best of our abilities. Our team is confident that our involvement will mean something for several veterans battling cancer. Some may argue that offering a gift basket to a cancer patient is a tiny gesture. Still, we know that small acts of kindness like these can genuinely change the recipient's mood from sad to optimistic. The sick person will feel cared for, seen, and appreciated by receiving a thought-out present from a complete stranger. Many of these people have to fight the illness alone, without the support of family or friends.
The Heroes and Sacrifices Campaign: Dedicated to Raising Awareness of Cancer Among Veterans
Besides putting a smile on the faces of very ill people, the Heroes and Sacrifices campaign has a greater mission to raise awareness of cancer among veterans and educate the public about the early signs of cancer. Misdiagnosis is very common in veterans with malignant diseases. Usually, cancer stemming from toxic exposure takes between 20 and 50 years to develop when it comes to cancer.
Initially, the person will experience symptoms attributed to common health conditions, so medical professionals often fail to diagnose veterans' cancer quickly. For this reason, the veteran may be diagnosed with common illnesses such as pneumonia when they have early-stage cancer. Receiving a cancer diagnosis early can add 5 to 10 years to the lifespan of patients.
Another factor contributing to late diagnosis or misdiagnosis is that the symptoms cancer causes resemble those of getting older. This is why most veterans do not consider the possibility that they could have developed severe disease. They deem symptoms such as a persistent cough and shortness of breath typical of becoming elderly, so they refuse to seek medical attention. .
If the person has served in the military, chances are their symptoms result from toxic exposure. Up to 90% of veterans who were active military members between the 1920s and the 1980s have asbestos fibers in their lungs. This can trigger the onset of multiple types of cancer in the lungs over the years. Lastly, PFAS, the dangerous chemicals in the fire suppressant known as AFFF, are present in the blood of every veteran who spent time on military bases across the U.S. These veterans have between 8 to 40 times higher levels of PFAS in their blood.
Up to 90% of veterans who were active military members between the 1920s and the 1980s have asbestos fibers in their lungs.
Consequently, the primary purpose of the Heroes and Sacrifices campaign is to raise awareness of how cancer occurs among veterans, misdiagnosis, and the most overlooked cause for cancer among veterans – toxic exposure. Join the campaign today to increase veterans' visibility with cancer and help them with essential products for their recovery.
About the Author
Environmental Litigation Group, P.C., based in Birmingham, Alabama, is a law firm dedicated and specialized in cases of exposure to chemicals, representing veterans, industrial workers, and their families.
About Carex Health Brands
Carex is your one-stop shop for home medical equipment and for products that assist caregivers with providing the best possible support and care for their loved ones. Carex Health Brands has been the branded leader in in-home, self-care medical products for over 35 years. Our goal is to improve the lives of our customers by bring them quality products that bring dignity back to their lives. With our three nationally distributed brands, Carex Health Brands serves national, regional and independent food, drug and mass retailers along with wholesalers, distributors and medical dealers.
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During the winter, the days get shorter, and our contact with the sun becomes even more limited. Many of us leave for work just as the sun is rising and don’t return home until after it has set, not getting any sunlight at all. While the amount of sunlight we need varies widely depending on our skin tone, age, and other factors, this lack of exposure can inhibit the healthy production of essential hormones. This could disrupt our sleep schedules and contribute to conditions like insomnia, depression, and seasonal affective disorder. Bright light therapy lamps, also known as sad lamps or happy lights, provide an artificial alternative to natural light that can help solve this common problem.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is when a person experiences a depression that derives from the lack of light, typically during the fall and winter seasons. The American Psychiatric Association explains that "About 5 percent of adults in the U.S. experience SAD, and it typically lasts about 40 percent of the year" (Psychiatry.org) but is treatable. This article will share seasonal affective disorder self-care tips.
The phrase "Winter Blues" and "Seasonal Affective Disorder" are often mentioned interchangeably during the winter season. There is a tendency to use these phrases synonymously, but they are not. One is a condition where the season and lack of light create a depression that affects all parts of their mental health, and the other is a temporary feeling.