When David Soto III was a teenager, a baseball caught him on the leg. The Alhambra High student had played sports since he could walk — he didn't think twice about it. But a few weeks later he noticed the swelling hadn’t gone down. Instead, the bump had grown. A doctor ordered a biopsy, and soon David got some heavy news. He had Stage 4 Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and it was caught rather late. That was nearly 10 years ago.
“I was in such shock, like are you kidding me, is this real,” David, now 25, recalled. As a 16-year-old David was forced to face his own mortality. In the years since then he has endured a series of treatments, medications and surgeries that took over his life. Through it, music and faith sustained him and his family.
Over coffee on Alhambra's Main Street, I tell David his story reminds me of the book of Job. Here is a teenager who was called upon to face a burden he could hardly fathom. David responded he sees it a little differently – as a parallel to David and Goliath: There’s that junior from Alhambra High, a little guy, and all of a sudden this giant of a problem comes over the horizon and knocks him down.
“I had to grow up real quick. I knew that things were not going to be the same, but it didn’t really hit me until my first chemotherapy treatment. It was on July 4th and I just remember the fireworks outside the hospital window,” David said. “The whole world goes on without you and you have to roll with the punches.” He couldn't keep up in school while undergoing treatment, and his classmates left him behind.
He went through two years of chemotherapy in six-month cycles, with a battery of medications. What helped pull David through was his love of music. Ever since he can remember, he has played the drums and now the bass guitar. When he was going through the treatment process, he still made music – only with a shaved head and a tube that fed into his chest.
Music fed his spirit, but faith sustained him. “You wonder out loud, ‘Why me?’ and then you start to wonder if you should really be asking, ‘Why not me?’” said David, who sees the ordeal as a test from God of his faith.
David appears to have passed the test: He's been in remission for more than five years. But even as he has overcome cancer, the effects are lasting. Last year he had a double-hip replacement because the cartilage in his bones had been eaten away by the chemo. Despite the dire situation, David is quick to find the lighter side, laughing about how instead of losing weight during the treatment process he put on a few pounds.
On a recent Easter morning David played bass guitar in front of Cavalry Chapel in Montebello, where he works as music coordinator accompanying a lively sermon. At dawn he stood on a stage framed with a banner that reads, “He Has Risen,” leading the congregation. “It’s a God given talent and he uses his talent to help everyone at the church," said his father, David Soto II. A positive outcome of the cancer, he says, is there’s more faith in the family — between David, his parents, his brother and his music. "He gives it from the heart," Soto II said, who left behind a career as a touring musician to be closer to his family. "He’s also helped me out as well."
David believes he was tested and since he's alive today to tell his story, he is doing the Lord's work. He also has a girl in his life, and he has done a steady stream of production projects for recording artists in the Los Angeles area. There’s one thing, however, that David understands he may never get back. “I miss running," he said, "and I miss baseball."