The Archers star Sara Coward has revealed details of a social media campaign geared towards kindness, after she was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
The 68 year old, who’s played Caroline Sterling in the Radio 4 drama since 1977, was diagnosed with an inoperable strain of the disease after she went to doctors about an unusual pain in her right arm in September last year.
And she’s now launched a remarkable new social media campaign, Sm:)E, which encourages people to smile at one another more often, in a bid to leave the world “a kinder place”.
Coward hopes the hashtag #milesofsmiles will go viral, urging people to share stories about a kind act or good deed they have accomplished in the past few hours, and raise “1000 miles of smiles in the process”.
“I’ve recently discovered I don’t have long to live, but in the last few months I’ve found myself smiling more than at any other time in my life,” she explained to The Express. “Why? Because I have become much more aware of the random acts of kindness around me, and how important it is to be pleasant to everyone you meet.
“I believe this is something we can all do, whatever our circumstances. And I think it’s something our world needs right now.”
While she hoped to keep her illness as private as possible, Coward was forced to inform her BBC bosses about the news – and called upon them to keep her character alive after she has gone.
Speaking to the Radio Times from her palliative care home in Leamington Spa, Coward said: “The first they [her BBC colleagues] knew was when I sent them an email in October. I don't know what they're going to do with the character but I do hope they don't write her out.
“I'd like them to find someone else to play her.”
The actor went on to say that Belinda Carroll, the real-life wife of Michael Cochrane, the actor who plays her on-screen husband Oliver Sterling, would be perfect.
Coward added that she has “no interest in being remembered”. “I would prefer it to be over quickly,” she said.
The Archers airs weekdays at 7pm on BBC Radio 4.