MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Karen Ruiz is dealing with a diagnosis that makes even the most basic movements challenging. But she still makes it a point to stay physically active.READ MORE: Celtics run past Heat 93-80, move 1 win from NBA Finals
“I was very athletic. Into martial arts. Still am, actually. But my career was very physically demanding,” she told CBS4’s Lauren Pastrana.
Karen spends a lot of time training at Exclusive Performance Fitness in Pembroke Pines.
She’s getting her body ready to ride from Florida International University to Key Largo for the annual Bike MS: Breakaway to Key Largo.
It’s a ride she’s done before, but she’s not on a traditional bicycle.
“It’s not an easy ride,” she said. “And 35 miles on a hand cycle, I felt it!”
Karen has primary progressive multiple sclerosis.
“It changed my life. It makes everything difficult and different. Not impossible, but not as easy as it was before,” she said.
She first started to feel the symptoms of the chronic nerve disorder in 1997, but it wasn’t until after her son was born that she was officially diagnosed.
“That was the scariest time in my life,” she explained. “Most of the patients were geriatric patients with dementia. I was the youngest patient by far on that side of the hospital and I had a son that was just a few months old. That’s what really drove me the heck out of there and to the MS Society to see what options I had.”
Karen says doctors and therapists were not optimistic, and some trainers didn’t want to work with her at all.
“They say they didn’t want to give what they call false hope. And I said, ‘It’s the no hope that you’re providing that is so much worse than the false hope with the potential that I might get better.’READ MORE: South Florida family knows firsthand effects of nationwide baby formula shortage
Karen says she’s lost a lot of sensation and the ability to regulate her body temperature and blood pressure.
But she hasn’t lost her “can-do” attitude.
She still loves to ski and exercise, and now Karen is channeling her positive energy into preparing for Ride MS.
The first time she road was challenging, but she’s not letting that stop her from doing it again.
“I surprised everyone. Nobody thought I should do it,” she said. “This year I’m planning on making it the entire way.”
And while she’s definitely overcoming the odds and surpassing even her doctors’ expectations, Karen doesn’t consider herself a survivor.
She’s just living her life, one workout at a time.
“I don’t think I’m a survivor. I’m just doing what everybody else is doing. It sometimes is harder and definitely different,” she said. “But I really want to take part in my own life and have fun.”
Karen is now a student in FIU’s recreational therapy program and she hopes to use her degree to help people living with MS get access to the care they need.
Her therapists from “A Touch of Inspiration” will be providing free massages to the bikers at Bike MS: Breakaway to Key Largo on March 4th and 5th.
Click here to find out how you can support the cause.
The goal is to raise $1,100,000 for research and resources for people living with MS.MORE NEWS: South Florida woman's bout with COVID included hair loss: 'This isn’t normal shedding'
Click here to donate to Karen’s Team.