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‘She just wanted to make it to our daughter’s birthday’: Husband’s tribute to Inverurie mum, Cara Baxter, 42

The Kellands Primary School pupil support assistant was diagnosed with bowel cancer just four months before she passed away.

Cara Baxter, 42, with her children Grace and Sam.
Cara Baxter, 42, with her children Grace and Sam.

As 42-year-old Inverurie mum Cara Baxter lay dying, her first thought was for her husband and kids.

Desperately hoping to see her daughter reach 11, the former paediatric nurse woke up singing Happy Birthday just days before she died.

“It was just 48 hours too early. But that was Cara,” said Greig, “right to the end – and with bowel cancer – she was thinking about our children”.

Mum-of-two Cara was diagnosed just four months before she passed away.


Cara was born on August 3 1981. Daughter of Joan and Don Richardson, she had one brother, also called Don.

A dancer from a young age, starring in the town’s pantomimes with Lavena Taylor School of Dancing, she went to Strathburn Primary School.

In 1986 tragedy struck for the family when Don senior was killed in the Chinook disaster which claimed the lives of 45 people.

Cara and her late father, Don Richardson.

Cara attended Inverurie Academy where she built a strong circle of friends. After leaving school she did an access course at college in Aberdeen ahead of her nursing degree from Robert Gordon University.

Soul mates

Specialising in paediatric nursing she got her dream job in Aberdeen Children’s Hospital. “Always good with children,” it was the perfect role.

Around 2002 Cara met chartered surveying graduate Greig Baxter at an Inverurie nightclub.

“Well, that was where we properly met,” he said. “I was actually her postman while at uni. We used to joke that her mum’s dog showed more interest in me than Cara did,” said Greig who is a partner at DM Hall.

Cara and husband Greig on their wedding day.

They bought their first home together in 2006 and on Christmas day 2009 Greig proposed. “Soul mates”, they married in Chapel Garioch church and held a reception at Pittodrie House in May 2010.

Becoming a mum

Almost exactly a year later Cara’s dream of becoming a mum was fulfilled with the birth of son Sam. Daughter Grace came along in January 2013, 11 weeks premature.

“I probably can’t get this across strongly enough: Cara was made to be a mother. She was loved by her kids, and she adored them too,” said Greig.

Cara Baxter with husband Greig and her two children Sam and Grace.

“Our nieces and nephews loved Cara so much, as well.”

Kellands School

Cara returned to work part-time but looking after her children was always the top priority. She happily accepted a role at Kellands Primary, where both kids attended, when a job came up.

“She was a pupil support assistant and it demonstrated again just how good she was with kids. Everyone loved her. She was a bit of an unofficial school nurse too.

“If anyone slipped and fell, off they’d run to Cara.”

Health query

In April 2023 fit and healthy Cara went to the GP, experiencing bloating and night sweats.

Experiencing no real pain, “she just wasn’t feeling herself”.

“I think because she had a few issues with her pregnancies it assumed her symptoms were related to that,” said Greig.

“Eventually after going back a few times, she did a test which showed a tiny amount of blood in her stool.”

Cara Baxter celebrating her 40th birthday.

Added to a waiting list for a colonoscopy, Cara began experiencing pain.

She returned to her medical practice.

“She felt like she was getting fobbed off,” Greig said.

“After another couple of days I took her to the G-doc. They gave her oral morphine and said she should be admitted.”

Shocking diagnosis

Greig drove his wife to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary where she had a CT scan.

It revealed the source of her pain was a bowel tumour. A colonoscopy and biopsy confirmed Cara had cancer.

“It was obviously a shock. The tone was serious, but we never expected anything but a hopeful way ahead,” Greig explained. “We were then told there would be a two to three-week wait while they discussed the case with a world expert from Basingstoke.

“For us, our heads were just in the place of… ‘okay, fine, whatever we have to do. If you want us to go to Basingstoke, we’ll do it’.”

‘Something’s wrong’

Hoping for answers and a course of treatment to help the situation the couple stayed positive. However, on the day of a scheduled iron infusion, Cara sensed that something had changed.

Knowing she was near the ward where she was diagnosed previously, she and Greig asked if they could see the doctor.

Spotting her name on the list, her consultant called Cara in.

“He admitted her so another scan could be done and explained that her symptoms could just be from the tumour growing. But, he also said the worst thing would be if it had perforated her abdomen in some way.”

‘Mummy has cancer’

Even with that in mind, Greig says neither was prepared for what came next.

“They sat us down and said there’s nothing we can do for her.

“Just weeks earlier we were told it was cancer. Then it was terminal.”

Clan Cancer Support visited the couple immediately and together they made a plan to break the news to their children.

The Baxter family from Inverurie.

They let parents and siblings know first, then organised for Sam and Grace to come to Clan’s centre to see Cara.

Through tears, Greig explained they told the kids that “mummy has cancer”.

“We then said the words out loud, ‘and mummy won’t be getting better’.

“It was awful. They were shell-shocked and devastated. Cara was our whole world.”

Sadness and anger

Keen to know what lay ahead Cara probed doctors for a prognosis.

“She asked, ‘how long have I got? Months… years?’

“The reply was ‘maybe just weeks’. They said she might not make it to Christmas.

“We were heartbroken. Cara kept a brave face on but I know she felt a little bit angry too. Angry that she hadn’t been taken seriously, and that she could soon be leaving us.”

Not wanting to die at home, Cara was then transferred to Roxburgh House.

Providing a room so Greig, Grace and Sam could stay over, the family wish to express their gratitude to Clan and Roxburghe for “exemplary care and support”.

Home for Christmas

Over the next weeks, Cara developed an abscess which, when treated, brought about huge relief.

A marked improvement meant she was allowed to leave for a few days at a time.  Supported by daily visits from Inverurie district nurses, she even managed to spend Christmas Day and Boxing Day at home with her mum, step-dad Olufemi, her brother, niece, Greig and the kids. Her aunt and uncle also visited from Thurso.

Cara – with her dimples and similing face – as everyone will remember her.

In mid-January, however, she took a turn for the worse.

Though they had all become used to a rhythm of time in Roxburghe then time at home, this visit was different.

Final moments

“She desperately tried to get to Grace’s birthday, which is January 25th,” Greig said. “During those last couple of days she wasn’t able to speak much but on the 23rd she woke up, and almost from nowhere, started singing happy birthday. We had to gently let her know she was a couple of days too early.

“Grace must have been weighing so heavily on her heart.

“Cara passed away the following day.

“I had to go home and tell the kids that their mummy had died.”

‘She filled our world.’

A celebration of Cara’s life took place at St Andrew’s Parish Church, Inverurie, on Friday February 2.

Greig composed a poem, read by his brother, which repeated the poignant line: “Oh, my Cara, my wee Cara, how the hell can this happen to you?’

Cara’s brother Don recorded himself singing her favourite Rod Stewart song, Sailing, while photos of Cara were shared. More than £4000 was raised by the packed congregation for Clan and Friends of Roxburghe House.

Cara Baxter on her wedding to “soul mate” Greig.

“We’re so grateful to everyone who came to her service, to all those who messaged and supported us as a family. We’re indebted to the doctors who never gave up on Cara, and to Clan and Roxburghe.

Final wish

“I’ve had a steep learning curve since losing my wife. Cara was so beautiful. She filled our world up. Cara did everything – not because I sat back and let her – but because she was that person who cared, and did, and loved us so well.

“She desperately wanted something good to come from this awful situation. I know she wanted to get across to people to be proactive about their health. If you feel something is wrong – go and push for answers.  And if you need to, get a second opinion. She never wanted this to happen to another family.

NHS guidance on bowel cancer symptoms and what steps to take.

“We’re devasted. Everyone who knew and loved her is in disbelief. Four months ago everything seemed daunting but hopeful. Now she’s gone.”

  • More information including symptoms of bowel cancer is available here.