Deborah Lucas, a registered nurse at Maine Medical Center in Portland for the past two decades, died Monday after a long fight with lymphoma. She was 59.

Mrs. Lucas knew from a young age that she wanted to be a nurse.

While a student at Rockland High School, she began volunteering as a candy striper at a local hospital. She graduated in 1974 and enrolled in nursing school.

She became certified as a nursing assistant and worked in various facilities, including what is now Saint Joseph’s Rehabilitation and Residence in Portland.

David Lucas, her husband for 27 years, said it took his wife a while to earn her nursing degree, but she never gave up.

“When she was younger, she liked to go to the discos,” he said with a chuckle. “She liked to have fun and go out dancing. She eventually settled down and got her certification. There was nothing that was going to stop her. She was pretty determined. It was one of her greatest qualities – determination.”

Her husband said the two met at a dance club.

“I asked her to dance and we took it from there. We hit it off,” her husband said. “We had a wonderful marriage.”

Mrs. Lucas graduated from Mercy Hospital School of Nursing and began her career as a registered nurse at St. Mary’s in Lewiston.

For the past 20 years, she worked in the neonatal intensive care unit at Maine Med. She also worked at Mercy Hospital in Portland for nine years.

Her husband said Thursday that she loved her work and was well-liked by the nursing staff.

“She absolutely loved taking care of the babies,” he said. “She really loved it. Every now and then, she would stay after work and take footprints and hand prints of the babies for gifts to give their parents. She was great. She was top notch … a first-rate nurse.”

At home, Mrs. Lucas was a devoted wife and mother of two children. The couple lived in South Portland.

Mrs. Lucas was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2003. She received chemotherapy and remained cancer-free for 10 years.

During those years, she lived life to its fullest. Her husband said they enjoyed going camping and boating for many years. He said they took trips to Nova Scotia, Gettysburg and the Adirondack Mountains. A highlight in her life was riding on the back of his motorcycle.

“She talked me out of buying a motorcycle for years,” he said. “When I got it, she decided she wanted a ride on it. Turns out, she loved it. We did some long trips and plenty of day rides, too.”

The cancer returned in early 2014.

“For the last 20 months, she was fighting that,” her husband said, reflecting on his life without her. “It’s tough. It’s going to take us a while, that’s for sure.”