‘It’s just nice to know you’re not alone … ‘

Salvation Army Major Deborah Lugiano says that before her cancer diagnosis last year, she wasn’t one to tell people how much she cared or how much she loved them, from her heart!

Like many Christians, she also would tell people she would pray for them and then not follow up.

In a public letter of thanks, Deborah, the assistant territorial trade (supplies and purchasing) secretary in the USA Eastern Territory, says “Prayer has sustained me throughout this long health journey, which continues even today.”

“I got prayer cards from people all over the country and even outside the country,” Deborah says. “I got prayer cards in Spanish, which I couldn’t even read and I had to have translated. I still have people sending me notes of encouragement and without that …”

Deborah, who recently returned to work, choked up before explaining how the experience has changed her life.

“It’s just nice to know you’re not alone and you have people that really care about you,” she says. “Unfortunately, we don’t tell people that until we go through things like this.

“We always say these off–the–cuff comments, you know, ‘I’m praying for you.’ But until something like this happens, you don’t really realize how deeply somebody takes that to heart. Just the thought of the mass of people that were praying for me was overwhelming.”

Deborah’s ordeal began last July when she was diagnosed with oral squamous carcinoma. She underwent major surgeries and was bedridden for six months.

There also was radiation treatment and a weeklong stay in the hospital when she suffered dehydration.

“I’m now just waiting it out and praying that all will go well and [that] the radiation did its job,” Deborah says.

Over the course of the treatment, Deborah has lost two–thirds of her tongue.

“I have lost some of my vocabulary,” she says. “It’s ‘tongue–twisting’ sometimes. I’ve lost my vocal [ability]. I can’t sing anymore. I used to be able to sing. I can’t sing.

“There are some drawbacks from it all, but praise God, right now I’m healthy and I’m holding on.”

Deborah, in her letter, said she also has learned a lesson about the use of her tongue.

“Having lost the ability to speak for many weeks, I am determined from this point on … [to] always speak with words of love and kindness to everyone!” she says.

“Psalm 19:14 resonates in my mind … ‘Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord my strength and my redeemer.’ ”

Deborah admits that in the initial days after her diagnosis, she found it difficult to pray.

“I kind of shut down,” she says. “But when you see your friends and family come around you, upholding you, it makes you realize that the only thing that sustains you through any of this is your prayer life.

“It’s amazing knowing that God—no matter how bad you feel, or when you don’t even have the right words to say—you can just feel His presence. Some days I was just angry and I still knew He loved me, and my prayer life has grown since then.

“I know God has something special not only for me but also for those who have prayed.”

Deborah says she once took things for granted, but no more.

“We wake up and start the day and we’re grateful for the next breath or the next time we see our whole family,” she says.

Deborah says her husband, Major Ronald Lugiano, the USA’s East trade secretary, “has been my rock.” The couple has been married for 42 years.

“It really makes you understand what love and the love of God means in a relationship,” Deborah says.

‘When you think of the years we’ve been officers and the number of people who have crossed our paths … it makes us wonder, did we do all we should have done? The answer always comes back from God, ‘Yes, you did, and be thankful every day for those people.’ So that’s what I try to do. Every day I’m thankful for the littlest of things.”

She also has a new attitude about that off–the–cuff “I’ll pray for you” comment.

“If I tell somebody I’m going to pray for them, I’m sure going to pray for them!” she says.

by Robert Mitchell

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