Sunday, 20 December 2009

Secrecy is harmful

Up until now my blog has mainly been read by friends, fellow cancer sufferers and people who are donor conceived. Most of them can identify with some of the issues which concern me. However, I think from now on it may reach a wider audience. Probably some people will question why anyone wants to write about such subjects. At first I kept my suffering to myself. Years ago I hardly told anyone I had breast cancer. However, when in the middle of chemotherapy for lymphoma and a search for a bone marrow donor I discovered I was donor conceived, it was all too much to bear. I could not keep it in.

I began to read other people’s blogs; some were cancer sufferers and I could understand what they were going through and it was good to leave words of encouragement. Then I began to find blogs from the donor conceived. This was a new world to me. I was the only person I knew who had been conceived in this way but there are many more of my age who just don’t know. It has all been kept secret for so long but there is nothing to be ashamed of.

Previous generations viewed infertility as something shameful but no one should be made to feel this way and fortunately nowadays we have broken down so many prejudices of the past. By writing about the subject I made contact with other donor offspring who could understand the bewilderment and loss of identity I felt. Although some had always known about their conception, others like me had had to find out later in life and many of these discoveries were very traumatic.

In many cases their parents’ marriages had broken down because of the strain of keeping the secret. Some felt betrayed by their parents because of the deceit. I had a loving childhood and loved both my parents - nothing can change that - but I feel they were pressurised by society and the medical profession to keep my origins secret. Most of us now realise that to bring a child into the world and deliberately separate them from their genetic and cultural origins is wrong and at least we have gone a little way towards remedying this by eliminating anonymity of donors now.

So by knowing your donor it may be that the family which results is not like the usual nuclear family. But so many families are not like that any more because of second marriages/step children and adoptees who have the right to get in touch with their birth parents. Ironically the doctor who organized my conception was keen on looking into family history. It is strange that there is one law for one group of people and another for us. We all need to know our parentage. It is not the same as a casual affair or a one-night stand; our conceptions were quite deliberate and helped by medical science. The need and desire of parents to have children is natural, but should not be more important than the welfare of the child. I am glad to be alive but I would like to know who I am and my biological father’s medical history not just for me - but also for my children.


  1. Dear Alison,
    My name is Jean and I’m a volunteer with the National Bone Marrow Transplant Link. Our organization helps patients, caregivers, and families cope with the social and emotional challenges of transplant by providing vital information and personalized support services. We subscribe to Google blog alerts, where we found your story.
    Please know that others are thinking of you and pulling for you! To learn more about our programs and services, please visit
    All the best!

  2. Thank you so much. The article was a little over-dramatic as far as the headline was concerned but I am sustained by help from others and that is the reason for going public