By Irene Hickey, United States Client Operations, Xerox

Irene Hickey is one of five Xerox employees granted a fully-paid leave of absence this year through the Xerox Social Service Leave program. Irene is working at the Rotary Club University Area Foundation in Houston where she is focused on providing low cost, fully furnished housing to firefighters undergoing treatment for on-the-job injuries or medical conditions.

As Charles Dickens wrote in his famous novel A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom… it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light …,” such describes my feelings as I embark on a rare new adventure.

One of our Rotary Club members, a retired fire captain with broad shoulders and a great smile shared his dream to have a place for firefighters to stay while undergoing cancer treatment at the Texas Medical Center here in Houston.

Station 8 Fire Captain and CrewThese heroes risk their lives to help others… and part of that risk, a very big part, is the fact that that many will get cancer as a result of fighting fires. Retired Captain Homero Ponce Lopez vocalized his dream and our club immediately went for it.

The only problem is that such an undertaking takes a tremendous amount of time and effort and we are a club of volunteers.   However, through the Social Service Leave Xerox generously granted, my feet are set on a brand new exciting path which is to have the luxury of time to devote to the project, to help make Homero’s dream a reality. A north-side gal, in her sixties given a unique opportunity to make a difference; how cool is that?!

The “worst of times” kicked in as well because I have learned so much more about cancer.  I’ve learned in excruciating detail about the way cancer ravages the body and the mind.  Although the new knowledge I acquire pulls me down like an anchor; the excitement of this project lifts me up like a giant helium filled balloon.

My grandfather taught me a phrase when I was five:  “They said it couldn’t be done, but she with a smile replied, that maybe it couldn’t, but she wouldn’t be one, to say so until she had tried!”