A young East County couple is holding onto love for as long as they can.
Isabella Cristobal, 20, and Sergio Soto, 20, married last month in San Francisco, despite a terminal diagnosis for Soto of leukemia earlier this year.
Soto has been battling Myelodysplastic Syndrome – a severe, chronic syndrome usually found in people over the age of 65 – since he was 15. Myelodysplastic Syndrome often progresses into acute myeloid leukemia, as it did in Soto’s case. Over the past five years, he has undergone three bone marrow transplants and multiple chemotherapy treatments, but at this point, the doctors have given him only weeks to live.
“Unfortunately, a few weeks ago, we found out the leukemia had spread to his jaw, head, neck, spine, and joints, which meant it was terminal,” said Cristobal. “Thus the grim diagnosis.”
The couple met at a mutual friend’s quinceanera in 2016, shortly before Soto’s original diagnosis. Cristobal said they began dating and Soto changed her perspective on life.
“Sergio was a very outgoing guy,” said Cristobal. “And at 15, when we started dating – also when he started showing signs of sickness – I saw past that. I didn’t see a sick person, I saw a very positive and confident man that kept moving forward despite the pains, despite the cancer.”
Soto and Cristobal both graduated from the Liberty High School District, Cristobal from Liberty High School and Soto from La Paloma High School. Soto is now a pre-nursing student at San Francisco State University and hopes to continue her studies through medical school. She spends much of her time caring for Soto.
“We honestly felt like we were already married with all the caregiving things I do for him, which was out of the “girlfriend” title,” said Cristobal. “But we really wanted to have a wedding ceremony, because that was the first time our family and friends came together to witness our love and life together.”
Because the couple has been dealing with Soto’s health issues since they met, Cristobal said they haven’t had time to experience normal relationship milestones. They are currently being provided housing through Family House Mission in San Francisco, allowing them to focus their time on each other and do some of the things they have always wanted to do. They even planned a trip to Anaheim, which will include Soto’s first experience on an airplane.
Cristobal said she hopes people who hear their story learn to appreciate the time they have.
“We hope that people who are going through the same or similar situation see our story and get the reassurance and hope they need,” she said. “That they know they’re not alone. That just because you have a life-threatening illness doesn’t mean you can’t do the things you want. And for everyone to live life like Sergio and I, one day at a time.”
To donate to the couple’s GoFundMe, https://bit.ly/3mqNbyT. They are also documenting their journey on Instagram @lovethrucancer.