Sherrie Zabinski was recently divorced and had no insurance when she was diagnosed with cancer, but that didn't stop her from getting treatment.

'They put me on their charity list and took care of me anyway,' she said.

Now, 16 months cancer-free and wanting to give back to the Hollings Cancer Center, Zabinski, 53, has organized a three-day trail ride fundraiser, Ride for the Colors. Participants can wear cancer-awareness colors to represent their cause.

'I felt a deep need to pay it forward,' Zabinski said. 'It was really important to me.'

In 2009, Zabinski was diagnosed with an internal hemorrhoid that turned out to be anal cancer. A biopsy was followed by surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

A horse lover, she took it as a sign when the doctor showed her the horseshoe-shaped tumor.

'At that point, I was no longer scared,' she said. 'I knew God had a sense of humor.'

As horrible as the cancer was, some good came out of it, she said.

'It changed my family dynamics and put my life on a positive path,' she said. 'I met some really wonderful people. It was almost a joyous experience. A lot of strong relationships came out of it.'

She is closer to her mother, Anita Hudnell, and her children, Kristina Leigh Mitchell and Robert Joseph Zabinski. Her partner, Wayne Pye, took care of her through treatments that were not always pleasant, she said.

And Zabinski's horse, L'il C, 'has been her savior,' said Hudnell.

During treatment, the two were separated for long stretches.

'Once, she hadn't seen him for months, but when she called to him, he held his head up and ran toward her,' Hudnell said. 'He kept butting her to show he knew exactly who she was.'

Zabinski said she has always had a special connection to L'il C, a 50th birthday present to herself.

'He listens,' she said. 'He has kept things in perspective for me.'

A former tour guide who now leads tours and takes care of horses at Middleton Place, Zabinski felt organizing a fundraising trail ride was a natural fit, especially when research showed no similar events in the area.

'I wanted to do something that I connected with,' she said. 'There are no annual cancer rides at all locally, and I thought it was time that we have one.'

The event lasts Friday through Sunday. Saturday starts with a pancake breakfast and ends with a cookout, bonfire and music. During the day there will also be fishing and skeet shooting.

'This isn't a competition,' Zabinski said. 'I wanted it just to be for the average trail rider.'

Zabinski, who plans to make the ride an annual event, said she is hoping for at least 100 participants.

'You have to crawl before you can walk,' she said. 'I just want to be able to give Hollings as much as I can.'

Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or at