A DEVOTED dad will be making a marathon effort in memory of his “extraordinary” wife who lost her battle to cancer four years ago.
When Kathleen Baxter was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, her husband, Karl, sank further into the alcoholism that had plagued his life.
A pledge to “say goodbye to her in a sober voice” helped him to finally give up drinking – only 120 days before his wife died in 2011, aged 39.
Now, as well as being on target with his training for the Edinburgh Marathon this weekend and Loch Ness Marathon in September, Karl has marked 50 months sober.
He said: “I promised Kathleen that I would say goodbye to her in a sober voice. I did that, and now every morning I get up and have a smile to myself because I am still doing it.”
Karl will take on the 26-mile race on Sunday to raise money for Maggie’s Edinburgh, a centre in the grounds of the Western General Hospital that provides support for cancer patients and their families.
Karl, 48, said the support offered there had been “unbelievable”, providing a lifeline to the bewildered and frightened family.
He said: “She fought so hard for four years and she never complained once. Maggie’s is such a beautiful, calm, tranquil place. It helped her to relax before going for treatment.
“It was also massively helpful to her to get to know other people who were going through the same things. The support network is unbelievable.”
Kathleen, of Winchburgh, found comfort at Maggie’s after doctors discovered a 9.5cm tumour behind her breast bone and she had to undergo a gruelling programme of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. She made friends and took part in programmes such as the Look Good Feel Better workshops, which help women to manage some of the visible side-effects of cancer treatment.
The couple’s four children, Jordan, 19, Caleb, 17, Tegan, 15, and ten-year-old Shay, went to one of the centre’s Kids Days which gave them a chance to visit the departments where Kathleen had her treatment. And after Kathleen died, Karl and the family found the support they received from Maggie’s staff of vital help in coping with the shock of losing a wife and mum.
For Karl, the challenge of adjusting to life without his wife was made all the harder by the fact he is a recovering alcoholic and had been sober for four months when Kathleen died.
Karl, who is now studying for a qualification in health and social care, said: “They were quite concerned about my wellbeing after my wife’s death, so they made sure there was someone I could speak to.
“There are no words to describe how much they helped me, my extraordinary wife and my kids.”
Andy Anderson, centre head at Maggie’s Edinburgh, said: “We remember Kathleen and Karl with great fondness and will be there at the Edinburgh Marathon Festival to cheer on Karl and all Maggie’s runners.”
To make a donation, see www.justgiving.com/Karl-Baxter4/.