Actress Cybill Shepherd owes her acclaimed new TV role as a lesbian in THE L WORD to a recent near-death experience. The former MOONLIGHTING star insists she'd never have plucked up the courage to bed women onscreen if it wasn't for a painful colon illness, which gave her a new lease on life and a fresh determination to try new things. She explains, "Three years ago, I almost died... I had to have my colon resectioned... I was in so much pain I couldn't get up, so I had to crawl down the stairs headfirst. "When I was in the ambulance, I thought, 'I wonder if I am going to make it through this?' "I have always felt this kind of terror in the past but I would never have been able to be honest as I am now."