You might remember a young girl who stole our hearts again and again as she kept a smile on her face while battling cancer. Cylie Pastian of De Smet even chose to tell jokes rather than cry when she faced the possibility of losing a leg to the disease.
It was always her dream to play basketball and teammates found ways to involve her despite her health. Lessons elementary ball players learned at the time are helping their very successful varsity team this year.
"I thought she handled it very well. I don't know very many people who'd be able to stay positive in the situation," teammate Rylie Osthus said.
Pastian sits on the sidelines taking stats for the girls’ basketball team now. She always wanted to play but bone cancer in her leg kept her off the court. The now sophomore was in elementary school when doctors diagnosed her.
"I would definitely say I've gotten blessings from it. I'm much closer with my family and friends," Pastian said.
Pastian has battled cancer twice. After doctors treated her first bout with the disease, they said she couldn't risk playing in a game and getting hit.
So her elementary teammates and coaches made a rule. When a foul sent any of them to the free throw line, they stepped aside and Pastian stepped in to shoot instead. Then she'd run back to safely sit on the bench.
That rule didn't transfer with Pastian into junior high and high school. But if you ask De Smet coach Doug Osthus, the heart behind the rule did.
"To see a group of girls really come together in some unfortunate circumstances with Cylie and really learn to care less about themselves and more about Cylie and what was going on there really brought them together," Osthus said.
And he says it made them more selfless by offering perspective at a very young age. Girls on the squad agree.
“You think of your role in the team more I think now. Nobody wants to be the star. It's all teamwork," teammate Kelly Aughenbaugh said.
With hardly a loss on the season, the De Smet girls’ basketball team is successful for many reasons. Osthus says the Cylie Pastian factor is certainly among them. Teammates join their coach in calling her an excellent statistician.
"More valuable than that to us, having her a part of things is...she's such an inspiration to all of us," Osthus said.
Off the court as much as on, Pastian's friends call her an example of hard work and determination. You can add to that an example of staying positive when it would be easy to head the other direction. Pastian doesn’t complain about her life.
"I'd rate it as a ten. I think that even though I've had bad things happen, I've learned a lot and I've enjoyed it all," Pastian said.
Thanks in no small part to those friends who stuck by and supported her during cancer treatments and continue to do so as she's cancer free today.
"Then she contributed to the team as much as she could and she does that now too," Aughenbaugh said.
Erich Schaffhauser: When someone gets fouled, does any part of you want to run out and shoot the free throws?
Pastian: No, not really because I get really nervous and I think they do a great job.
But those teammates say they'd gladly step aside if varsity rules allowed and have Pastian stand at the line instead. They say it could help the free throw percentage increase. But it's also no doubt an extension of a lesson they all learned years ago of what really matters.
Pastian goes to annual screenings and has been cancer-free since 2008. She's faced a couple scares but nothing more.