There are a lot of things in this world that are unfair and less than ideal situations to be in. A few months ago, Pascal Lafontaine found that out the hard way when he was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer in his leg. With few options, the doctors and Pascal decided to amputate his leg to prevent the cancer from spreading.
When it comes to BMX, being healthy and having your body working properly is very important and as many of you know, having two legs is ideal. It might be ideal, but one thing you need to remember is that it takes A LOT to stop a BMX rider from riding.
Pascal recently picked back up where he left off thanks to a prosthetic leg and a lot of ambition to get back the riding that plays a huge role in his life. Between chemo therapy, he has been working on getting dialed again, and that alone is beyond impressive since that stuff will kick your ass.
We caught up with Pascal to talk a little bit about his battle with cancer, what it’s like to ride with a prosthetic leg and what his plans are now that he’s about to get the all clear from his doctors… Check it!
Name: Pascal Lafontaine
Location: Montreal, Canada
Sponsors: Social Bike Co., Maglock Bike Pedal, Össur Corporation, The Cribs Bike Shop.
Years riding: 7 years
Pascal! How’s it going? Looks like you’ve been really pushing yourself to get back on your bike.
Hey! I’m doing good for sure. I’m very excited to be slowly getting back on my bike after my amputation. I’m progressing and not waiting till my chemo is over before I get back to riding.
A few months ago you were diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that ultimately lead to your right leg being amputated. What kind of cancer is it? Can you kind of give us a little insight into what it does?
My cancer is called Osteosarcoma. It is a type of a bone cancer in my right leg. The good news is that I don’t have any metastesis, so I’m only doing chemotherapy to prevent anything from forming and after that, the possibility of the cancer to coming back is small. So, after 2 months of rehab and 6 months of chemo, I’m going to be able to start riding and get back into shape in Febuary… Thank god.
So, once you were diagnosed, how long did it take before you were in surgery to amputate your leg? Did you have any other options or was it this or expect things to get real bad?
Everything came so fast in front of me when the cancer got diagnosed. They did every scan and the surgeries in less than a month. I had the choice to try to rebuild my leg before the amputation, but my tibia was already very destroyed and the chance for the cancer to comeback in my lungs was higher. So, right after the surgery and rehab, they started the chemotherapy right away. It was probably the worst part of my life, haha.
You have been doing quite a bit of physical therapy to get used to the new prosthetic, right? What kind of a program are you on? Is it something you are doing every day?
At the beginning of my rehab, I had 2 physiotherapists and and Ergo to help me get better at walking and doing things on my own. This went very well and they now they help me to do the right exercises at home between two treatements of chemo so I don’t lose any time. The hardest part is to regain the muscle in my other leg because I couldn’t walk for 2 months.
You have slowly started getting back on your bike and it looks like you’re already starting to get some of your tricks back. What was it like those first few sessions with the prosthetic? Was it frustrating?
Haha! I think the basic tricks like 180 flat and barspin are very exciting to do again but, I cannot do some other basic tricks like 360 flat and basic grinds because I don’t feel my pedal. That is the most frustrating part. You never know when you gonna land your tricks because of that every time. I ignore where my foot is in the air. It’s like if someone was trying to ride with his knee on the pedal. The feeling is very weird, even after a lot of practice.
How is it now that you’re getting some of your tricks back? Is it getting easier to ride with it?
I can see a little improvement, but it’s very small, haha. I’m still not comfortable the first 5 tricks of the session. I hope I’ll get better after the chemotherapy.
How has it been on you mentally? Were there times you just wanted to give up? Has being able to ride again made dealing with everything easier?
The principal obsession was to focus on where I am right now and not focus on what I’m gonna be able to do in the future. I was always asking myself if someday I was going to ride again or what I’m gonna be able to do. I’ve questions myself a lot about tons of things but at the end, after 7 years of riding, I never had a better opportunity to motivate other people to ride than right now.
I saw you picked up a pedal sponsor recently. Do you use a special pedal to keep you from slipping off the pedals or is it just a regular old BMX pedal?
Yeah, I got a sponsor from Maglock bike pedal, a magnetic pedal which has helped me a lot since I started riding again. It’s a new company and the system is very well designed. This can easely replace any “clip shoes” that we normaly see on roadbikes, crosscountry and downhill bikes cause its easy to get off and safer also. I can also deal with the force of the magnet so for me, it helps a lot.
What’s one trick that wasn’t very hard for you to get used to doing? What has been the hardest so far?
The easier tricks were definitely 180 flat, crooks 180, feeble 180, 180 barspin out of something and all of those basic grind tricks. The barspin was not easy at all due to my foot. My right was always slipping off my pedals and thats the reason why I’m pretty glad to have the Maglock bike pedals now.
I’d imagine that pedal bite is a little less painful than before, right?
Haha, yeah, I dont have the half of my right tibia so yeah…Thats a good fact!
You’re still going through chemo therapy and everything, right? How is that all going? What’s the status on your cancer right now?
The treatements are ending soon. I have a treatement every 3 weeks and I’m off for 11 days every time. This is harder than my surgery for sure and I don’t wish this on anyone. They said I need 1 or 2 more treatements and it’s over after that. Basicaly, I’m gonna feel better in febuary and I’ll finaly start riding my bike regularly again.
Do you expect any more operations or anything, or is it time to start working on getting yourself back up to speed for whatever life throws your way?
From what the experts said, it’s going to be over after the chemo and I’ll be fine. So, yes, I’m gonna start working, go to school again and certainly working on some new BMX things!
What are your plans as far as riding goes? Can we expect a new edit or anything out of you any time soon?
I have started filming and editing a video thas is going to explain everything in detail with riding “before and after”. I’ll need to film a lot more, so I guess this one gonna drop at the end of the summer. Between that, I’ll work with Maglock bike pedals do produce some sort of short video promo explaining how pedals have helped me and how it works. I’ll drop some photos and other information soon for sure.
What about travel plans? Anywhere you hope to get to this winter?
I really want to get back to the cities I went to film for my last video part — Quebec city, Sherbrooke, New York, San Diego — but nothing is for sure for the moment. All I know is that I’ll put a lot of work on my next part.
We’ve seen a number of riders that have been showing that a disability won’t keep them from riding BMX. What kind of advice do you have for riders that might be holding themselves back from riding?
Just ride for fun. You need to tell you that a normal rider is going to respect you and motivate you way more if you are doing tricks with a disability.
How can people keep up with you these days?
I always post a lot of things!
Do you have any shout outs or thanks?
Huge shout out to to all my new and old sponsors!
Rob Andrews from Socialbike.co, Dave Williams from Maglock, Arnaud from The Cribs bikeshop, Chrome shoes for the hook up and Össurcorp for the prosthetic stuff!
Anything else you want to say?
Thanks to every one who showed me, support, respect and love lately. I was not feelin as good as right now. It helped a lot!