Shortly after her last hospitalization in 2005, a woman Flores had met in the study told her about a two-day bike ride from Miami to Key Largo and back to raise money for MS research.
“I’m in,” she remembers saying.
Her parents, who live in Miami, worried about the possibility of an MS episode triggered by the sun exposure. So they followed Flores and her husband close behind in a car all the way to Key Largo.
Sheremata said he cautions his ambitious patient not to overdo the exercise. Still, he recognizes that Flores’ overall fitness works in her favor.
“She is thin, she cools off efficiently and she is able to pace herself,” said Sheremata, professor emeritus of neurology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “What’s important is that she avoids getting overheated.”
Flores, who speaks lovingly of Sheremata, said she tries to get his blessing before each race.
She speaks proudly about having completed the Miami-Key Largo bike ride every year since except 2008, when her daughter graduated from college the same weekend. The bike ride filled her with so much positive energy that when a friend later suggested a triathlon, she signed up immediately.
Her love of triathlons led to half marathons, which led to a half ironman. At some point, she became convinced she needed to complete a full ironman race, so she began training for a full marathon. She prepared for the Disney and ING events with the TeamFootWorks training program in Coconut Grove.
“What’s great about Lisette is that she’s not just doing this to finish, but she’s competitive, and keeps trying to beat her own personal record,” said Josh Liebman, the group’s program director. “I think doing this keeps her healthy, both physically and mentally.”
Friends and acquaintances often ask Flores if they can send others who have been newly diagnosed with MS her way, for advice and counseling.
“She is an example of the fact that you can still have a life after diagnosis,” said her husband, Jorge Luis. “She inspires a lot of people in different ways, including me.”
As for her next major goal, Flores plans to complete a full ironman next year.
“There’s this image of people with MS having to be in bed or in a wheelchair,” Flores said. “I don’t know if that’s going to happen to me. But I won’t stop doing what I’m doing until my body gives up on me.”