Cancer battler raises £45,000 for Maggie’s as he retires from 43-year police career

Calling time on a career in the police which spanned more than 40 years would be a huge milestone by anyone’s standards.

By Jonathon Reilly
Thursday, 13th February 2020, 9:36 am
Updated Thursday, 13th February 2020, 9:46 am

When that moment coincides with you also helping to raise over £45,000 for a cancer support charity, as someone diagnosed with a terminal illness yourself, it represents something far more significant.

For 59-year-old Cameron Shanks, best known as Cammy, such a scenario would’ve seemed surreal just a year ago.

Yet that’s the reality he faced at the start of this week as he delivered a final presentation at the Scottish Police College in Tulliallan, not long after learning he’d smashed through his latest fundraising milestone for Maggie’s Forth Valley in Larbert.

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Cammy Shanks and wife Claire (left) pass over the cheque to Maggie’s fundraising organiser Charlene Graham (above right). Picture: Michael Gillen

The former police dog handler from Stenhousemuir has brought his working days to an end to make more memories with his wife Claire, children Kayleigh (31) and Kieran (26), step-children Rhys (31) and Linzie (29) and ten-month-old granddaughter Emily.

Being able to do so seemed unlikely to Cammy when doctors gave him the crushing news he had terminal stomach cancer last April and told the dad-of-two he had just six to ten months left to live. Undeterred by the diagnosis, he has battled the illness head-on and organised his own events to generate cash for Maggie’s.

His bravery has also inspired relatives, friends and colleagues alike to come up with a wide-ranging series of fundraisers which have collected an incredible £45,718.80 for the service which, he says, has been of vital support.

As he detailed why he has put so much effort into both fundraising for the facility and spreading awareness of the services staff offer, Cammy said: “I couldn’t do it without them.

Maggie’s Forth Valley staff and the services they offer are hugely important to Cammy

“We hadn’t a clue where to turn and a friend mentioned Maggie’s. I went to meet them on the day before my first meeting at the Beatson and they were really positive.

“When you go to Maggie’s you’re able to sit down and the specialist will explain to you what’s actually happening.”

Cammy’s diagnosis came after a routine blood test revealed an abnormality and he was told he had a primary tumour in his stomach plus tumours in his oesophagus, lung, spine and buttocks.

Chemotherapy treatment at the Beaston Cancer Centre in Glasgow then followed and Cammy learned his form of cancer was among a minor percentage of those which react positively to Herceptin, a drug normally used to treat breast cancer.

A recent scan showed the drug has shrunk four of the tumours considerably, halved two and caused one to disappear completely.

Free financial advice, one-to-one counselling and Living With Cancer drop-in sessions all run by Maggie’s have helped Cammy and his family throughout the past year.

And, with his 60th approaching, he is now planning a joint party with step-daughter Linzie for her 30th.

Cammy explained: “I think you look for any positives.

“At first it was a feeling of doom and gloom but then the positivity of the staff at the Beatson and Maggie’s, and hearing of people who are on Herceptin who’ve been told they’ve months left and they’re still here two or three years later — anything like that is a positive.

“I would urge anybody that’s been touched by cancer to visit Maggie’s.”

While dealing with his illness, Cammy has also been juggling responsibilities as a training development officer with the Scottish Police Authority. Opting to give that up proved to be a difficult but necessary decision to make.

The Falkirk-born man’s career began when he secured a post as a police cadet in May 1977.

He then joined the police force as an officer in the December of the following year and was stationed in Stirling, Bridge of Allan and then Denny, where he also covered Bonnybridge and Banknock.

As a life-long canine lover, Cammy landed his ideal role when he became a police dog handler — a job he would hold for more than 20 years and one that earned him the rank of Sergeant. He believes he reached the “pinnacle” of his career when he was appointed as a judge of national dog-handling trials in Belfast and Liverpool.

Looking back on his career, and offering advice to others, Cammy said: “Some of the laughs we’ve had have been incredible and I’ll miss the people and the camaraderie.

“If you want to do something, and have the money, go and do it because you never know what’s round the corner.”