In February 2021, Kristian Bayan got a call that would change her life forever—she had breast cancer. She was just 30 years old and had no family history of the disease.“It was shocking, obviously,” she says. “And it was very overwhelming in the beginning, but over time, and especially as I talked to other survivors, I started to look at my journey differently and see that maybe this isn’t the end. When something goes wrong in my life, anything, I’m always like, what am I supposed to learn from this?”Bayan has since recovered, but the frustration she felt stuck with her. She experienced first-hand the dearth of services geared toward adolescents and young adult cancer patients. Now she’s committed to provide the resources she didn’t have. She founded an all-volunteer organization called Pink Strength that helps patients and families “redefine life with cancer.”Cancer is difficult at any age, but younger patients are faced with different challenges, like being in the beginning stages of a career, having young children, or wanting to start a family in the future, says Bayan. Those under 40 are also less likely to have the financial means to take extended time off for treatment and assistance may be unavailable or hard to find.
“There are resources out there, but it’s hard to tell what’s worth pursuing because we’re already overwhelmed by everyday life. And then to add the stress of our health change and all the major decisions we have to make in a matter of days or weeks, it’s overwhelming to do that research for yourself. It was through that experience that inspired some of what we do with Pink Strength,” Bayan says.Though founded with a focus on breast cancer, Pink Strength has grown to serve all cancer patients. The organization has helped numerous patients thrive via support groups and programs like free haircuts, fitness and wellness classes, care packages, vision boards, social events, and more.The impact that she’s making keeps Bayan going strong. Even something as small as a donated mastectomy pillow to help with post-surgery comfort can make all the difference for a patient.“It makes it all worth it to be able to reach that community—and actually find that community,” she says. “When I was diagnosed, I didn’t find anyone close to my age group. It’s important to share experiences and just share the story so that other people find something to relate to. I’ve been seeing a lot of that in the last few years, and it inspired me to keep doing that with my story.”Save the date for Pink Strength’s third annual fundraiser at JJ’s Island Grindz in Bonita on October 1.