Lisa's Dream of Helping Others
When Lisa Bennett beat cancer, she thought her struggles were over. Unfortunately, the end of her cancer treatment marked the beginning of an entirely new struggle to regain her mobility. Although the last decade of her life hasn't been easy, the difficulties she's faced gave her the mental strength she needed to pursue a lifelong dream of helping adults with disabilities. Thanks to her own determination as well as the experience and skillful hands of Resurgens Orthopaedics doctors Jeffrey Peretz and Drew Miller, Lisa is up and walking again without pain.
Lisa's Reach for More Story begins in 2010 when she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. This disease starts by affecting white blood cells (called lymphocytes) but can quickly spread to other areas of the body if not treated immediately. After teaching special education for 20 years and acting as the Assistant Director of Special Education in Forsyth County for 15 years, Lisa was forced to retire at age 50 because of her medical issues.
Lisa's doctors knew they needed to act quickly and initiated chemotherapy right away. Unfortunately, that first round of chemo proved to be ineffective and her lymphoma came back 3 months later. This time, she underwent a bone marrow transplant and more chemo. Neither one of these treatments was successful, leaving Lisa and her doctors wondering if they were losing the fight.
Luckily, they had one more idea: an autologous bone marrow transplant using cells from Lisa's sister. In this type of treatment, a high dose of chemo is used to kill the blood producing bone marrow cells that create cancerous lymphocytes.Unfortunately, it has the side effect of also killing healthy blood producing cells. In Lisa's case, stem cells were collected from her sister's bone marrow and transplanted, allowing Lisa's own bone marrow to produce healthy blood and immune cells again. This cutting edge procedure was successful in fighting her cancer but it also left her without much of an immune system. Over the course of the three years it took to treat her cancer, Lisa contracted pneumonia at least 5 times. Her doctors prescribed strong steroids to help her heal, but the combination of chemo, the stress of her transplant, and the side effects of those steroids took a toll on her bones, causing osteonecrosis that left the joints in her hips and left shoulder severely damaged.
After spending nearly three years fighting her cancer and two more years recovering, Lisa was finally feeling well enough to start exercising again; however, her exuberance proved to be short-lived when she woke up one morning with excruciating pain in her hips, which later progressed to her shoulder.A CAT scan by her doctor quickly revealed the osteonecrosis, which had depleted the bone tissue in her joints.While it was clear that Lisa would need both hips replaced, as well as her left shoulder, due to her fragile condition, finding a doctor to perform these delicate surgeries was easier said than done. Once again, Lisa's sister (who worked at a Resurgens Orthopaedics location in Cumming) came to her rescue suggesting she speak to Dr. Peretz, a board-certified Joint Specialist at Resurgens Orthopaedics.
"By this time, I had just given up," admits Lisa. "Having gone through all that and now needing to have my joints replaced, and not being able to find anyone to do [the operations]. I was not in a good place. I fought this battle with cancer and won, now I couldn't even find someone to fix my shoulder and my hips."
Lisa met with Dr. Peretz, expecting to be rejected once again but this day was different. Dr. Peretz explained that although the operations would be difficult, he and his colleagues were willing to accept the responsibility to ensure Lisa made a full recovery.
"He had no problem at all. He gave me hope that I would be pain-free," says Lisa.
Once Dr. Peretz put together a plan for Lisa's surgery and recovery, it was time for her first hip replacement in October of 2016. That same day of surgery, upon waking up from the procedure, she was surprised to find she wasn't in any pain.
If it hadn't been for Resurgens Orthopaedics I don't know where I would be. They saved my life. The quality of my life improved because of what Dr. Miller and Dr. Peretz did… I can't say enough and I highly recommend them.
"[I had] absolutely no pain after that. None," she says, continuing, "I was up walking that day. A week later, I couldn't even tell I had anything done."
With her first hip surgery out of the way, her second was scheduled for January of 2017, which was also quite successful; each hip replacement left just a small, 5-inch scar on each side thanks to the minimally-invasive techniques employed by Resurgens Orthopaedics surgeons whenever possible.
While Lisa's hip surgeries were fairly routine, her shoulder surgery was another story altogether. Due to the severe bone damage in her shoulder joint and her weakened immune system, Lisa's shoulder surgery would be especially difficult. Dr. Peretz turned to his trusted colleague, Dr. Drew Miller, who is a knee and shoulder specialist at Resurgens St. Joseph's location. Dr. Miller recommended a total shoulder replacement using an experimental prosthesis. While the surgery itself was successful, Lisa admits this recovery was more difficult than anything she had ever faced before.
"The shoulder surgery was a lot harder, and I knew it would be. It hurt worse; I didn't have immediate relief," she says.
Although this recovery proved to be another tough battle, at this point Lisa was used to fighting them and she pushed through the pain until she had regained most of the mobility in her shoulder. After her battle with cancer and limited mobility that lasted nearly a decade, she was ready to put it all behind her and look to the future, thinking it was time to get back to her old career helping people with disabilities. As a nearly lifelong resident of Cumming, she noticed there was no place in all of Forsyth County for adults with disabilities to get the support they needed. Lisa decided it was her calling in life to start one.
"I just thought I survived all of this; the cancer, the multiple surgeries; this is what I needed to do. This has all come full circle for a reason," says Lisa, "You show yourself how much you can do when you're faced with adversity like that."
Lisa opened Creative Enterprises Forsyth, which gives employment opportunities along with social and life skills training to adults with disabilities. From its humble beginnings, the center grew from 6 participants to 45 today. Now Lisa spends her days teaching adults with disabilities valuable job, life, and social skills, and even takes them to do fun leisure activities like bowling and swimming. After all her struggles, she's thrilled for the opportunity to give something back to the community where she spent almost her entire life.
"If it hadn't been for Resurgens Orthopaedics I don't know where I would be. They saved my life. The quality of my life improved because of what Dr. Miller and Dr. Peretz did. I can't say enough and I highly recommend them."
Resurgens Orthopaedics Reach for More Stories are filled with tales of ordinary people overcoming unimaginable obstacles but few of the people we've spoken to have had to deal with such a tremendous amount of adversity as Lisa Bennett. Dr. Miller and Dr. Peretz are so proud to have been a part of Lisa's recovery and all of us at Resurgens Orthopaedics are thrilled to see her moving on to accomplish such great things. We wish Lisa much success with her center for adults with disabilities and we hope her newly replaced joints will allow her to continue helping her program participants for many years to come!