Wed May 30, 2012
Youth Radio

Youth Radio: Crystal Santoyo

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be hearing voices and perspectives from members of our community that we don’t often hear from - inner-city teens from Arrupe Jesuit Academy in northwest Denver.

Our youth radio project is part of collaboration with the Denver non-profit Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop. The goal is to teach teens of all walks of life how to become better writers and speakers. Today we hear from Crystal Santoyo.


Pity is the last thing I want. I don’t want people to hear my story and say that they feel bad for me. I want them to hear my story and the things that I’ve been through and know that everything is possible.

My mom had leukemia when I was only seven and my sister was nine. Before my mom got leukemia we had the perfect life. We had a place to call OUR home; we had food to fill us and clothes to cover us. It was always us three girls having the time of our lives. My dad wasn’t in my life as a child, yes it hurt, but it didn’t matter much to me because I had my mom. Everything in MY world was pretty and pink… until the news of her leukemia came out. My life had a complete turn and at that time I thought it was for the worst.

I couldn’t do anything about it. All I could do was watch, watch as leukemia consumed the best of my mom, her strength and love for life. I felt useless. At the age of seven I had think, act, and be an adult. I had to pack the Barbie’s, the little kid fantasies and my childhood forever. I started to cook, clean, and take care of myself and the fragile baby my mom had become. I took a deep breath calmed my nerves and said “I can do this” I started with something I thought would be easy. I started to clean. Everything was going great till I started to mop. I would see my mom do it all the time with no struggle so I thought I could do it too. I went for the bucket, mop and Pine-Sol. I mixed the water and the pine-sol together, dipped the mop in the bucket and began to mop. As I started to mop I found myself with one problem. I couldn’t ring the water out of the mop completely. There was water all over the floor and every time I would try to clean it up, the puddles became bigger and bigger, suddenly I slipped. Within seconds my clothes were soaked with all the water that had been on the floor. I laid there for several minutes. I had all kinds of thoughts going through my head, but the thought and image that never left me was the one of my mom, fighting for her life and not giving up. If my mom was fighting for her life and hadn’t given up, I had to fight and never give up just like her. Tears filled the brown almond eyes that my mother loved so much. I missed my Barbie’s, my little kid fantasies, my toys, MY LIFE!! I was bitter and angry, the angriest I’ve ever been. I cried all I had to cry and I said a prayer “padre nuestro que estas en el cielo santificado sea tu nombre” I brushed away the pain and tears and got up.

Months past and my mother looked weaker and weaker. Everyone in my family was worried and already making a “plan” Almost like they wanted her to die. But in my heart I held out hope. When everyone else ONLY saw a sick weak woman I saw a strong beautiful woman, and that was my mom, a strong fighter.

So, we packed our bags left Denver and went to Mexico for treatment. The drive was long, but I still held on to my hope. We arrived in Juarez, Chihuahua. Walking into the roofless clinic made my knees weak. I held onto my mother’s hand and said “I love you” The nurse called her name and she walked into the patient room. My mom had given me a gold crucifix cross as a present before we left to Mexico. As she secured it around my neck she said “esta cruz de la doy como un simbulo de mi amor. La cruz estara siempre alrededor de tu cuello y caydra en tu pecho junto a tu Corazon. Cuando te sientas sola, trizte o confundida agarra la cruz en tus manos cierra los hojos y suena, suena porque en tus suenos SIEMPRE me encontraras y siempre te quedre” …  that the cross was just a small symbol of her love for me, and that she would always love me and be there with me in the brightest and darkest moments of my life.  Sitting in the clinic, I held onto the cross that to this day wraps my neck. I said the same prayer I had said when I slipped on the soapy water when I was mopping. “Padre nuestro que estas en el cielo”

10 years later my mom is healthy and alive. Now that I have been accepted to my first choice college in the fall I don’t think my life had a complete turn for the worst like I thought when I first found out my mom had leukemia . I feel thankful that I had to go through so much struggle and pain at such a young age. I now know how to deal with it when it comes into my life. We were recently evicted from our home and now the three of us are all living in one room in my auntie’s house. If we were able to get through the dramatic turn my mom’s leukemia brought then I know we will be able to get through this. Many years in my life have been filled with struggles but I am proud to say that I made it to a point in my life where I appreciate them. I think back to when I was 7 I feel proud because if I didn’t give up then, then I know I won’t give up now.

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