By David Fong
TROY — Katie Castandea and Bailey Webb have many things in common.
Both are outstanding students.
They both are standout athletes.
The two are both well-liked and respected by their peers at Troy High School.
They’ll also forever be linked together as the 2019 Troy High School prom queen and king.
Of course, the Troy High School seniors also share one more thing in common … a common fight.
“I was diagnosed with a germinoma brain cell tumor on Oct. 7, 2018,” Webb said. “I was getting an MRI after I had been diagnosed with diabetes insipidus and I was actually walking out of the hospital. I was almost out of the door when the doctor came running up after me and told me they needed some more scans.
“I remember saying to him, ‘If you came running after me, asking for more tests, you must have found something pretty bad.’ After more scans, they told me they had found something in my head and I would need more surgery and a biopsy.”
The brain tumor was found to be cancerous, which would bring an abrupt end to Webb’s senior season on the Troy soccer team. Up until that point, he had been a key contributor for a Trojan team that won a share of the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division title, scoring seven goals and chipping in seven assists.
Of course, that was one of the lesser of Webb’s problems, as he would soon begin chemotherapy and radiation treatments that, at one point, forced him to spend 20-straight days in a Cincinnati hospital.
It was during those tough times that Webb reached deep into the well of friendships he had made throughout his four years at Troy High School and found a reserve of love and support that helped get him through the worst parts of his treatment.
“I really relied on my friends, my family and definitely my faith,” Webb said. “I got so much support from my friends at school. I have to give a special shout out to the Interact Club, who really helped support me through the whole thing. When you have everyone supporting you, it takes away from some of the doubts you have and distracts you from the bad things. It makes you forget about the bad things that are going on.”
Of course, Castaneda, the prom queen, knows quite a bit about what Webb was going through as he battled cancer — she watched her beloved mother, Marianne, fight ovarian cancer for the better part of three years.
“We found out my mom had ovarian cancer in October of 2016,” Castaneda said. “That was the fall of my sophomore year. They thought it was really bad and there wasn’t a big chance she was going to survive. But then through chemo and a miracle, she started getting better. She had a good year in 2017 and we thought things were clear, but in the spring of my junior year (2018), she started getting a lot of headaches. The cancer had spread to her brain.
“There was always one more step, one more treatment, one more big thing they were going to try. Then, one day, they told us there were no more solutions. I remember one day we didn’t have school in December — I think it may have been because of the weather — and my dad was with my mom. That’s when we found she was going into Hospice.”
On Dec. 30 of last year, Marianne Castaneda’s battle with cancer came to an end as she passed away at her home in Troy, leaving behind her husband Tony, Katie and her younger sister Sarah, a freshman at Troy.
Marianne Castaneda had long been one of the biggest supporters at her daughters’ activities. Soon after her passing, the Troy High School swimming team — of which Katie is a member, along with being on the cross country and track and field teams — held its senior night festivities.
That evening, the Troy community packed the pool in one of the largest turnouts ever for a Troy swim meet, largely in support of their grieving friend and teammate.
“We had so much support,” Katie said. “I guess I didn’t realize how big of a difference my mom made in people’s lives. They told me she was always the first person to greet people with a smiling face when they came to Troy. It was really nice to hear how many people were inspired by her.”
Like Webb, Castaneda continues to draw upon the support from the students, faculty and staff at Troy High School as she continues through so many touchstone moments — ones she knows her mother would have been there for — in the final weeks of her senior year.
“It’s definitely been really hard, doing everything without her,” she said. “There are a lot of moments where I wish she was here with me. I just have to know she’s so proud watching me from above.”
That would have given her an excellent view two weeks ago when her daughter, along with Webb, were crowned Troy’s prom queen and king in yet another show of support from their classmates, whose vote bestowed upon them the regal honor.
Make no mistake, though, this was not a sympathy vote by any means, Troy High School principal David Dilbone said.
“These are two great kids,” Dilbone said. “They are top shelf. They are both great athletes and smart kids. If you were to do a picture book of the top kids in our school, they would be in it. I have no doubts they would have been on prom court even if all of this hadn’t happened to them. These are both great kids who deserved this honor regardless. I just think it’s great their classmates recognized that.”
With graduation approaching, both have bright futures ahead of them. Webb was recently scheduled for a series of tests to find out how much — if any — of the cancer remains. He plans on attending the University of Cincinnati in the fall and studying engineering. Castaneda plans on attending The Ohio State University, where she’ll also study engineering.
In a few years, they’ll both be engineers — one more common thread in two divergent tales that came together on one magical prom night.
©2019 Miami Valley Sunday News, all rights reserved.