23 June 2023

Canberra sporting community loses an absolute champion: Vale Cam Shelton

| Tim Gavel
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Cam Shelton with friends from GUFC at his 18th birthday celebrations. Photo: GUFC Facebook.

Cam Shelton with friends from GUFC at his 18th birthday celebrations. Photo: GUFC Facebook.

There aren’t too many 25-year-olds who have made as much of an impact within their communities as Cam Shelton.

Cam, who lost his two-year battle with a rare bone cancer in his spine on Sunday, spent a considerable part of his time engaging with his community – and a major component of that community was the Gungahlin United Football Club.

Cam started as a player with Gungahlin before dedicating himself to becoming a referee. It’s not the first option for most 12 to 13 year olds, but such was his determination to become a football official.

In a tribute on the Gungahlin Football Club’s Facebook page, the club’s head of referees Gavin Hopman said Cam received special dispensation to officiate at such a young age.

Hopman also wrote about Cam’s qualities as a referee, which very much reflected his values as a person.

“He championed fair play and respect for all on the football pitch and was very passionate about stamping out abuse towards all junior referees, both at the Gungahlin Football Club and Capital Football.”

While Cam was devoted to being the best referee he could possibly be, the Gungahlin United Football community reciprocated that devotion.

I had the privilege of witnessing this warmth first hand at a trivia night last year at the Eastlake Football Club. It was a fundraiser to enable Cam to travel to the United States to visit family. The football community enabled this to happen.

Cam with his cheque from funds raised at the GUFC trivia night. GUFC Facebook.

Cam with his cheque from funds raised at the GUFC trivia night. Photo: GUFC Facebook.

Meanwhile, Cam had another focus once his prognosis was known. He wanted to raise awareness about the disease that had taken over his life from March 2021. It’s a disease that Cam hadn’t heard of before his first diagnosis – Ewing sarcoma, a cancer that affects bones or the soft tissue around bones.

Two years after that diagnosis, he had endured over 600 needles and more than 25 chemotherapy cycles. He and his family had become more than familiar with the cancer, which by the end became crippling.

From March 2021, his life was a roller coaster of emotions.

After spinal surgery in September 2021 he had to learn to walk, sit and stand again. He had to learn to go to the bathroom. He said that all of these trivial things that most of us do instinctively became significant issues.

That roller coaster continued in March 2022 when he was told that he was in remission. Understandably, there was a perception that the war had been won.

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Two months later, Cam was informed that the cancer had returned.

It had spread and his pain levels were, as he described them, “off the rails”.

On Sunday 18 June, Cam lost his courageous battle with this insidious disease.

He was set to run in his second City2Surf in August to raise funds and awareness for Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, an organisation that provides cancer treatment with the goal of increasing understanding, diagnosis, treatment, care, cure and prevention of cancer. Chris O’Brien Lifehouse concentrates on the treatment and care of people with rare and complex cancers, such as Ewing sarcoma.

Although Cam will not get to run in the City2Surf as he planned, others will do so on his behalf. His referee colleagues, and close friends, intend to run in his honour.

That will be a particularly hard race for all involved, but it will be an important one as they remember Cam Shelton and the part he played in their lives.

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