Laughter is the best medicine, the old adage goes.
Southern humorist June Cline learned it can even be life-saving.
Cline was this year’s speaker for Effingham Health System’s Lunch, Laugh and Learn. The annual program held at the Effingham College and Career Academy promotes women’s health awareness, particularly early detection of breast cancer.
Cline entertained the crowd with several amusing anecdotes before ending on a more serious note. She shared an unforgettable moment that followed one of her speaking engagements.
“I have had a man come up to me and say, ‘You saved my life today,’” Cline recalled.
Cline asked the man how she was able to do that. He explained the despair he felt after losing his wife and son in an automobile accident.
Cline quoted the man’s words: “I came to this conference to tell everybody good-bye, and then I was going to end my life. But the laughter today makes me understand they would so want me to live, and they would so want me to laugh.”
While laughter won’t always have an impact that dramatic, Cline said it can certainly help in managing the bumps in life’s road. For example, Cline and her husband tried unsuccessfully for nine years to have children.
“But apparently God wanted us to have money and travel,” she quipped.
Nothing worked, Cline said, not even taking hormones “that would grow hair on concrete. They could not get hair to grow on my husband’s head, but they could make me look like Quasimodo.”
An avid motorcyclist, Cline performs a one-woman show titled “Make It a Great Ride!” She describes it as being tailored to “pre- through post-menopausal women and the people who love them.”
“I want to apologize to the ones that love us,” she said, “because we can’t help it. Hormones go crazy and stuff happens and we can’t not do it.”
Even a mundane trip to the post office can turn into an adventure, Cline pointed out. She shared a story of waiting in line at the post office and then returning to her car to discover a seemingly unique theft.
“Someone had stolen my dang steering wheel,” Cline said. “My steering wheel was gone!”
So was the radio, she said. And the entire dashboard.
Cline soon realized everything was in fact in its rightful place – except her. She was sitting in the back seat.
“I’m not joke telling up here – I’m telling my life,” Cline said. “If there’s one takeaway from my time with you today, I want you to get that every time you initiate laughter, you change somebody’s brain chemistry. Don’t you all have people you know that make you laugh, and you love to be with them? Absolutely.”
Laughing through life
Seated in the front row of tables, Rose Brown laughed throughout Cline’s performance.
However, that’s nothing new for her.
“I love to laugh,” Brown said. “I enjoy my life. I thank God every day for my life.”
Brown, a certified nursing assistant, shared a common bond with two other Effingham Health System employees at her table. All three ladies are cancer survivors.
A routine mammogram in 2009 revealed Brown had breast cancer. She considered it a death sentence, after seeing her mother die from breast cancer at age 53.
“I said, ‘Oh, my God, it’s my turn,’” Brown recalled. “When you hear the word ‘cancer,’ you automatically think it’s all over.”
Brown credited her family and friends with supporting her through her battle with cancer. She said she also prayed often as she underwent chemotherapy and radiation and had a partial mastectomy.
“It’s easy to say, “Hey, I’m just going to give up,’” Brown said. “But thanks to my family and friends encouraging me not go give up, I had hope. I’m glad that I did because my life is even better than it was.”
Brown said she was out of work for two years as she fought cancer. She returned three years ago to the CNA job she loves, and has remained a bubbly presence at the office.
“As soon as I walk in, I start having fun,” she said.