Meet a Helpline Volunteer: Denise Z.

Why did you decide to be a SHARE Breast Cancer Helpline volunteer?

I saw a post from Tamsen Fadal on Facebook, who was at a SHARE benefit event. I’d never heard of SHARE. I contacted them and they trained me over the phone and internet. They forward the calls to me here in Orlando. I’ve been a volunteer for two years.

What do you like most about being a Helpline volunteer?

I love giving back. I’m intuitive and empathetic, and it gives me a sense of purpose when I use it to help other women. I like being able to give a voice to women who cannot find theirs.

When were you diagnosed and what was your diagnosis?  

In 2005, I was diagnosed with DCIS. I had a lumpectomy followed by radiation. In 2012, I had a second diagnosis of lobular carcinoma. I chose a bilateral mastectomy, reconstruction, followed by five years of letrozole. I’m feeling great.   

In addition to volunteering for SHARE, what else do you do? What do you (or did you) do for work?

I support an organization called Animal Avengers run by the American Pie actress Shannon Elizabeth. They deal with the poaching crisis of animals like rhinoceroses and elephants in Africa poached for their ivory and left to die. I flew to NYC a year ago to volunteer for their fundraiser to raise money for night equipment badly needed. I collected $525 to donate in memory of my late husband Greg Ziobrowski.

What do you do for fun?

I love cooking and making others laugh. My humor has gotten me through many hardships. I recently wrote a book about the many hardships in my life. My hope is others will read it and will see how I got through things and perhaps I can help them. I don’t have a title yet but it’s about to be self-published. I’ll sell copies to whomever wants them! Some of the proceeds will be donated to charity.

What did you learn about yourself while going through your breast cancer experience 

That I have the strength to get through any hardship. That the one person I always know I can rely on is myself. That I have the inner strength to make my own difficult choices and I can help others who cannot.

What priorities did you have before and after?

My priorities have not changed. My late husband came first along with my four children, my family and my wonderful friends. Also the education of children. I’m a retired elementary school teacher. People and doing for others has always been my priority and still is.

Any other insights that you want to share?

Women need to know they are not alone. Breast cancer is not a choice, but we all have choices in how to treat it, which can include lumpectomy, mastectomy, radiation, chemo, reconstruction, etc. Women should be free to make whatever choice is right for them and not be judged for decisions they make. Nobody knows you better than yourself.

Also, I’ve always believed in the saying, to those that have been given much, much is expected. For me it’s a little different. Much has been taken away, but it’s important to me to give back in every way possible.