Religious beliefs limit cancer patient's options

Jehovah's Witnesses forbid blood products, transfusions


As a Jehovah's Witness, Valerie Latta said her treatment options were limited after her 2009 diagnosis of Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer that had spread to her liver.

"We want non-blood medical management of all our treatments, any kind of treatments," Latta said. "No blood products of any kind."

Several Bible verses are cited on the Jehovah's Witnesses website "that speak of not physically eating blood, also apply to the transfusion of human blood in the veins of the body."

Latta said she found her best option was a new regimen that combines two medicines -- Perjeta and Herceptin -- and chemotherapy, meant for her specific type of previously untreated cancer.

As a pharmacy technician, Latta said she did her homework to verify no blood was used in the manufacture or testing of the products, and she has an advanced directive instructing that she not be given blood transfusions.

"As one of Jehovah's Witnesses, I wanted the best medical care possible, and that's what I got," Latta said. "It's proved to be the best decision."

Latta said she also asked a lot of questions and worked closely with her medical team.

"I've learned to live with it and accept it and everything is doing good," Latta said.

Latta said she was able to return to work less than year after learning she had an aggressive form of cancer and starting her treatments.

"I'm working the same number of hours, doing the same job," Latta said. "I haven't noticed anything in my day to day life that has limited me in anyway."

Based on her experience, Latta said she advises others confronted by cancer to "step back and take a deep breath."

"Don't let yourself give in to the panic. I did that," Latta said.

She said new treatments are being developed that can help, and she is proof.

Latta said when other patients look at her, "They see what is possible."

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