And what happens if….? How my family stepped up to a challenge

Before my social worker would put me forward for approval as a single adopter, she wanted me to ask my sister and brother-in-law whether they would commit to bringing up my future child if anything ever happened to me. That wasn’t an easy conversation for me to initiate. Camilla and Lloyd had both worked for several years with adolescents in residential care, and so had no illusions about just how challenging a child with a history might be. They had three young children of their own, and while they were very supportive of me, it wasn’t them who wanted to adopt. Fortunately though (and because they are special people), both said they would step into the breach if need be.

Then, once J had been placed with me, and J with his cousins, c 2006while his attachment to me was still very anxious, I wondered whether he might worry about me disappearing, and what would happen to him. After all, he had been abandoned more than once in his short life already, and so it would be well within the realms of possibility as far as he was concerned. So one afternoon we talked about his place in my sister’s family if for any reason I wasn’t around to look after him. I told my social worker Linda about the conversation during one of her regular visits. “So how did that go?”, she asked, looking a little concerned that I had bitten off more than I could chew this time. “He seems to be quite looking forward to it”, I was able to answer, with a grin.

Little did we know that four years later, I would be talking to Camilla and Lloyd once again about their caring for my son, but this time it would be for real. J was 11 now, and had been with me for four years…. and I had recently been diagnosed with cancer. At that stage, staying alive for J’s sake was literally all that mattered to me. But I had to face up to facts: it was an aggressive cancer, I had had two lots of surgery in quick succession, and I had chemotherapy and radiotherapy coming up. We were all terrified. I would certainly need their help looking after J as the treatment progressed, and I also had to prepare for the ‘what if?’ question that all cancer patients have to face up to. Of course, Camilla and Lloyd were fantastic and did not hesitate, and knowing that I didn’t have to worry about this at least was a huge relief.

It is an issue though that prospective single adopters in particular need to address. Social workers do what they can to minimise the risk by ensuring we have a thorough medical, and asking their medical experts to review family histories for significant illness, but they cannot eliminate the risk entirely. And buses do come along when we least expect them. Mine did anyway. We, as well as our social workers, need to know that our support network is stronger than most and can cope even with this kind of eventuality.

Meanwhile, my cancer never did come back, and I am as confident as I can be that J won’t be moving in with his cousins any time soon, whatever he would like! Thank goodness.

I am linking this post to the Adoption Social’s Weekly Adoption Shout Out, week 91 #WASO, where adopters and adoptees, and others involved, can tell it how it is. The Adoption Social has been shortlisted for the the Digital Champion Award at BAAF’s National Adoption Awards during National Adoption Week.



  1. What good news! I’m so pleased for you, both about your cancer and your family.

    Thanks for sharing on Waso.

    1. Thank you! As time goes by, I start to take my good fortune for granted, and then, for no particular reason, I’m reminded that I’m doing something that five years ago I never dreamed would be possible. Sitting here, writing this is a good example! I feel lucky on so many counts.

  2. What a powerful post. So glad to hear your health is good.

    1. Thank you. Yes, life is back to how it should be now. I wasn’t up to paragliding when I was in Kas summer 2013 though (your post) but that had nothing to do with my health. Bravo you.

  3. It terrifies me, to be honest. They didn’t make me decide beforehand, and we’re still in a state of indecision with it as all my family live abroad so the solution isn’t obvious. Must fix this situation! Thanks for the nudge!

    1. It’s a real toughie. I’m lucky that my sister and her family are only a mile up the road and it would be much harder thinking about it if they were further away. It also forced me to write a will, so I will nudge you on that one too!!!

  4. I was really moved by your story. So glad your health is better and that you know you have support.

    1. Thank you! I am well now, and J also got through that period as well as I could have hoped. So we look forwards 🙂

  5. It is hard to think about the worse happening. So glad your plans weren’t needed

    1. I agree, it’s impossible to think about, unless you have to. We all think we’re going to carry on forever, which is no bad thing. Life is much more fun that way!

  6. Great news about how things are now. Such a horrid thing to have to go through. I think you have a marvellous family that would step in if needed.

    1. You’re right, they are wonderful. I have often said that I couldn’t have done any of this without my sister in particular… But so many people were fantastic when I was having treatment – family, friends, schools, professionals – and they all helped keep the show on the road. Feels like a bit of a circus sometimes!

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