This funny girl laughed off a serious illness and went on to tell the world about it
A health scare took this comedian from the hospital ward to laughter yoga classes, Sharon Gambrill tells Clare Kennedy.
April Fool’s day is meant to be a day of practical jokes. But three years ago, it was no joke for the actress, comedian and MC extraordinaire Sharon Gambrill. As she so vividly wrote in her diary: “On April Fool’s day, I had my boob chopped off.”
The nightmare had begun a few weeks earlier with an aching breast and the shocking discovery of a hard granule inside a soft lump. “I thought, ah, this doesn’t feel right,” she says.
Nineteen days after surgery, Gambrill found herself in hospital with an efficient male nurse inserting a pain relief suppository because she kept vomiting from the morphine. “I came back to earth with an almighty thud,” she says. “Seeing the drainage tubes carrying blood and scary-looking fluid out of your flat left chest, ironically, you really know you’re alive.”
Since then, Gambrill has been on a very personal journey, unravelling knotty issues in her life, including painful memories of her mother. In that search, she picked up a book her mother had given her, which explored the connection between the mind and the manifestation of illness, Gambrill explains, and caused her to reflect on her own life.
Gambrill put pen to paper to explore her memories. And these are some of the heartfelt words that poured out:
“It really does go back to my relationship with my mother. She was a kind, loving, sensitive woman who was into things like crystals and channelling and wine and pills. She succumbed to depression, prescription pill addiction, bouts of alcoholism and occasional suicide attempts while I was growing up.
One day I arrived home from school and found my mother unconscious. I’ve got to say it took it out of me. I didn’t know what to do. I just sat on the floor by her motionless feet crying and waiting for my big brothers to come home from high school. It’s very quiet when it’s just you and your mother and she’s unconscious. I heard the wind blowing faintly out the back and that was about it. There’s a feeling of powerlessness and a fluttery lack of security, which imbeds itself into your psyche as you grow up.”
Thirteen years ago, her mother overdosed in a hotel room in Mosman, she explains quietly. Years later, Gambrill wrote in her diary about her grief:
“I felt like I was in quicksand and about to sink into a very deep, unbreathable hole. I couldn’t eat or sleep for six weeks…
“In fact, resentment was a big part of me mingled with grief and guilt for ten years. Right up until I found that hard lump. Then something inside me said, ‘It’s time to change.’”
Gambrill began to lead a healthier life with a more spiritual outlook. “I exercise, relax, meditate, have energy healings, study Reiki, and eat organic vegetables… I’ve thrown out my deodorant and I suggest you do too. It’s full of chemicals that leak into your glands. I now use a crystal rock stick. It doesn’t really work so learn to embrace your BO. I have!” she laughs.
She also embraced Laughter Yoga, an activity, she explains, that includes laughter exercises, deep breathing and guided meditation. “Scientists have proven our immune system doesn’t know the difference between real and pretend laughter. The body releases endorphins either way. I believe in it so much I have become a certified Laughter Yoga Leader,” she says.
After our conversation, Gambrill went online for some laughter therapy. “I joined in with the Laughter Yoga Skype Laughter Club where I laughed for 20 minutes with around 14 people from all over the world whom I have never met…This is what Laughter Yoga is all about – laughing unconditionally for the health benefits and stress relief. Laughter Yoga is great in the workplace as a stress relief and to fuel productivity,” she enthuses.
Super is super
Indeed laughter and its flow-on effects have literally changed her life. “I feel funnier than ever which is both ironic and wonderful,” she says.
“To me Media Super is about being part of a community of like-minded people and it represents my future, which is bright, healthy, and full of laughter!”
Sharon is performing her life story at the Art of Storytelling show at the Brass Monkey in Cronulla, Sydney on Wednesday, June 4.
Follow Sharon on Twitter @sharongambrill
Photo supplied by Sharon Gambrill.