Earlier this month, we asked our FLYfam to submit their impactful stories for breast cancer awareness month. After reading endless amazing submissions, we selected Aubrei McGinn Pallini, a rider at Flywheel Bellevue who battled breast cancer at the early age of 30. In addition to sharing her inspiring story, she is also receiving a private ride with funds benefiting the BCA charity of her choice. Read on for her journey, and how she found solace in the stadium.
1. What first brought you to FLY?
I fell in love with indoor cycling in my early 20s and went for years. But between relocating to Washington and starting a job with a long commute (I severely underestimated Seattle traffic), I didn’t put proper emphasis on my physical health. Soon after, my now-husband and I both decided that we needed to kick our butts into gear as our wedding was approaching. That’s when I found Flywheel Bellevue and became hooked.
2. Tell us more about your experience with breast cancer.
Right after my 30th birthday, I found a lump in my left breast. Unless you’ve experienced this for yourself, it’s hard to describe the exact feeling of your heart dropping into your stomach with impending doom. I called the doctor’s office early the next morning and told them that I needed to see someone that day and it didn’t matter which doctor it was. The doctor I saw wasn’t “quite sure” about what she felt during my breast exam and scheduled me for a mammogram the next day. The experience was frightening, and led to another doctor saying that she “didn’t like what she saw”. This led to a biopsy, a diagnosis, scans, a new team of doctors, surgeons, oncologists, and nurses… all of whom made this scary process bearable.
After that, I had a double mastectomy. During the surgery they found that I actually had two different types of breast cancer and removed 20 lymph notes. As a result, I was left with lymphedma in my left arm which is why I always wear a compression sleeve when I ride at FLY. Exercise actually helps move the fluid around, especially when I wear my sleeve.
I went through chemo and radiation while teaching pre-school as much as I could. The Puget Sound Business Journal did a small series about chronicling me working with cancer at the time. (I was somehow very fortunate to be paired with a breast cancer survivor as a co-teacher that year, which is just a stroke of fate).
The mastectomy is never the end. I’ve since had two reconstructive surgeries. With all the recovery time, I had to take a break from Flywheel, but when I was healed, the stadium was the first place I turned.
3. How has Flywheel positively impacted your journey?
Flywheel has been huge for me. It is always different and always motivating. The set-up of the stadium allows me to work out with others while focusing on my own personal goals. I feel strong after class, and I absolutely love that I can track my progress with the TorqBoard and the stats on the app. I keep coming back.
4. Why do you feel fitness is so important when going through a health-related issue?
When I was diagnosed, working out was not a priority. But I knew that the diagnosis was a huge red flag for where I had let myself get health-wise. I was sitting way more than I should and my diet was not great.
During treatment, I tried to take occasional walks and keep my body moving. After treatment, I had lost a lot of muscle and strength in my chest and arms, so even doing gentle yoga was a struggle at first. But it was also a first step toward being able to push my body to do bigger and better things.
Not only that, but when you are moving your body, your mind becomes strong and that might be the greatest benefit.
5. At Flywheel, we’re proud to have a strong community of riders, staff, and instructors – how has the Seattle FLYfam supported you?
The Flywheel Seattle staff is always great. When you walk into the studio, everyone seems happy and excited to be there! I also love how personable everyone is and if I ever need to adjust my ride because of a health issue, the staff is more than accommodating, and helps me have the best ride that I can.
6. What’s one thing you’d like to tell others who may be impacted by breast cancer, either directly or indirectly?
It sucks, but you take your diagnosis and you push forward because in a split second it seems as if living becomes a choice. No one’s story is the same as the person sitting next to you, but it is your story and you get to choose what adventures comes next.
7. Tell us more about the BCA charity that you support.
The Young Survival Coalition has been there for me from the get-go. It supports women who were diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 40. These are women, who – on top of cancer – have to navigate careers, families, dating, and social circles, while also dealing with appearance changes, the loss of a breast or breasts, burnt skin, weird side effects, and a new definition of self. It is so cool that through something awful, I am able to participate in something that I love (Flywheel) and that this private ride is donating to an organization that helps so many young women facing breast cancer!