Now 14 years old and a freshman at River Ridge High School in Woodstock, McMahon still loves to play sports. He lives with his family in Woodstock, including his mom, Kerri, his dad, Chris, and his sister, Madison, 10.
A desire to help raise money for childhood cancer research has also led him to get involved with the Rally Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research — a local organization that empowers volunteers across the country to raise awareness and funds to fight the disease.
On June 25, McMahon will serve as emcee for the seventh annual PT Solutions Allatoona Triathlon, which is a USA Triathlon sanctioned event. Proceeds will benefit the Rally Foundation. And the event is right up his alley.
Being a “Rally Kid” and having competed in his first post-diagnosis triathlon last August, he’s excited about being one of the announcers at this race as well as handing out medals following the event.
Rally Kids are spokespersons for the Rally Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research. According to the organization’s website, they “inspire us to keep working hard toward better treatments and cures.”
A spokesperson for PT Solutions — the physical therapy company hosting the triathlon — said the Rally Foundation was a worthy cause.
“Working with Rally, we see a lot of cancer patients at our clinic, so we wanted to help and give back to this foundation,” said Megan Golden, digital marketing coordinator with PT Solutions.
The race begins at Dallas Landing Park. Racers splash through the lake on a 500-meter swim, emerge from the water for a 16-mile bike race and head back to the park for a 5K run, ending in downtown Acworth.
Golden said McMahon was a “natural fit” as the event’s emcee.
“He’s a triathlete himself, so he knows what it’s like to swim and bike and run in a race,” Golden said. “He’s all around awesome. … Matthew is unstoppable, and we just love that. We love his spirit when it comes to competition.”
Competition is what’s kept him going throughout diagnosis, partial amputation of his right leg and, now, remission.
“I really love sports, and I love competition,” McMahon said. “I think that’s what drove me, was to keep playing sports with my friends and keep up with them and maybe even be better than them.”
Keeping up with his friends meant McMahon had to be cautious, too. The procedure he'd undergone in May 2014, which involved partial amputation and a procedure known as rotationplasty, meant he had to pace himself.
Rotationplasty, McMahon explained, is a procedure in which a surgeon removes the knee “and takes the bottom of your tibia and fibula in your foot and turns it 180 degrees, and pulls it up and attaches it to your femur, so that your ankle is now your secondary functioning knee.”
The other options McMahon had — limb salvage (knee replacement) or full amputation — wouldn’t have allowed him to continue playing contact sports as easily, said his mom, Kerri McMahon.
Kerri said her son’s attitude has helped keep her strong throughout all this.
“He never once said ‘why me?’” Kerri McMahon said. “He just took it head on. He’s had bad days, but his main focus has always been getting back out there with his friends and playing sports again.”
When asked what kind of advice he’d give to someone diagnosed with cancer, Matthew McMahon said it’s best to “focus on the thing that drives you the most. It doesn’t matter what that may be, just focus on it, and don’t focus on the bad things. Focus on getting better.”
Added McMahon: “There is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
The deadline to register for the seventh annual PT Solutions Allatoona Triathlon is June 18. Those interested can visit active.com/acworth-ga/triathlon/races/pt-solutions-allatoona-triathlon-2017.