On October 6, 2008 West Montrose’s Shannon McTaggart was merely weeks away from crossing a major life goal off her list. A marathon runner who was training for an ironman triathlon in Florida that fall, McTaggart had spent the past seven months conditioning her body; cycling more than 30 hours per week, passing up time spent with her family in order to prepare for the big race.
That afternoon she was cycling one of her usual routes, on Hwy. 6 just outside of Arthur. One minute she was riding along the shoulder of the highway, the next she awoke and was looking up at the sky above her. McTaggart was struck from behind by a pickup truck travelling at 100 km/h: the driver was not watching where he was going. The cyclist was dragged for 500 metres before her bike snapped in half and she was thrown onto a nearby lawn.
“I woke up and felt as though I had been sleeping in my bed; I was warm and cozy,” said McTaggart, a mother of three. “Then I felt the grass beneath me, and saw the people crowded around me. I tried to sit up to shift my leg but I couldn’t move.”
She was taken by ambulance to Fergus, where they discovered a host of injuries that ran the gamut from a broken tibia to a dislocated left knee, a pelvis fractured in three spots, seven fractures in her back and neck, a shattered elbow, a crushed radial nerve, a broken collarbone and punctured lung. The athlete spent the next seven weeks at Grand River Hospital and was told by doctors that she would certainly never compete again; she would be lucky if she was able to regain full mobility and walk properly. Because of severe nerve damage in her arm, steering a bicycle was out of the question.
After several long weeks spent lying in her hospital bed, McTaggart was allowed to return home to West Montrose, where she began her long journey of rehabilitation and physical therapy. Her recovery has been relatively quick, thanks to her impressive physical condition prior to the accident, say her doctors. She has set her sights on a new goal.
Last year, after realizing that her healing was not far enough along to return to competition, McTaggart went to watch a friend participate in the Ride with Lance event in Kitchener. The event is a rare opportunity for cyclists to ride with, and spend a day in the company of cancer survivor and seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, while raising some money for the Grand River Cancer Centre at the same time.
“After being around the group, feeling all that positive energy and briefly meeting Lance, I made up my mind that if he decided to come back to Kitchener-Waterloo a third time, there wasn’t anything that was going to stop me from riding with him.”
Currently, she has limited movement in her left arm and limited function in her left hand, making it difficult to balance her bike. Her pelvis was fused, so sitting on a bicycle seat for long periods of time is challenging. She has spent the past year attending frequent appointments at Waterloo Sports Medicine, visiting with physiotherapists, trainers and an osteopath who have been able to not only get her back on her bicycle seat, but encouraged her to continue training. She rides three or four times per week, on routes ranging from 35 to 140 kilometres in length. She has added a rear-view mirror to her helmet, but she is not afraid of the roads.
“With everybody’s help, I have gotten back into good enough physical condition to ride again and I have learned to ignore parts that still hurt.”
On Aug. 28, when Armstrong takes to area roads with an exclusive group of cyclists to ride 120 kilometres in the fight against cancer, Shannon McTaggart will be along for the ride.
All riders who wish to participate must commit to raising $20,000 and the local cyclist is just $4,000 short of that goal. She has been reaching out to friends and family and her daughters have run a number of lemonade stands out in front of their home, raising almost $200. To sponsor McTaggart, donors can visit www.ridewithlance.org and click on ‘Sponsor a Rider.’
“It will be very exciting to meet and chat with Lance, but the best part about all of this is that I have been able to have that joy that I used to have when I rode my bike,” she said. “I would have liked to have taken the easier path but a lot of good things have come out of the situation and I try to just think about the positives. Getting back on my bike is an amazing feeling.”