Pam Harper says she's at peace now that she's reunited with her son.

"Just never give up. Never give up, there's always hope at the end," said the woman, now living in High River, Alta., whose two children were taken into permanent care by social services in Nova Scotia in the mid-1990s when she lived in Lower Sackville, N.S.

Harper moved to Alberta eight years ago. She says she always hoped she'd be able to see her children again some day, even while she fretted for them.

"Are they alive? Who are they? Are they being abused? Are they being hurt? Or anything, I didn't know," she said. 

When Harper developed breast cancer in 2011, she began to actively search for her grown-up daughter and son. 

"When I became really really sick, lost all my hair, and everything, my children, you know… I had to keep fighting, I had to keep fighting." she said. 

In Nova Scotia, adoption records are secret, but the Adoption Information Act says the province's director of child welfare will make a 'discreet inquiry' on behalf of a biological child or parent seeking a reunion. 

'So behind the times'

Mike Slayter, an adoption rights advocate living in Halifax, thinks the government's role as a gatekeeper is inappropriate once adopted children reach adulthood.

"My principle is everyone should be entitled to their own truths. Unfortunately this province is just so behind the times, even compared to the rest of Canada," he said. 

Harper says a government social worker eventually told her that her overture to her children was refused. 

She continued to search online and Slayter contacted her after seeing a Facebook post.

He says he wanted to help because of his own experience reuniting with his birth mother as an adult.

"It really is hard to put into words the extent and the depth of emotion both mother and child feel," he said. 

With the help of family living in Nova Scotia, Harper put up posters showing a picture of her kids around Halifax, Dartmouth and Lower Sackville. She listed her contact information in case anyone had any information to share. 

She says her son reached out to her online in November. 

'My life is complete'

Slayter paid for Harper's plane ticket to Nova Scotia so she could meet her son face to face.

That happened last week, at Harper's sister's home in Beaver Bank, near Lower Sackville.

Harper says the moment was everything she was waiting for.

"I started crying. He cried. And first thing we hugged each other right away. It was like ten minutes hugging, straight hugging. And he said 'I'm never letting you go again.' That was my world." 

Harper says her son has yet to tell his adoptive parents about the reunion, so she's asked CBC News not to identify him. 

Harper says her son saw her search posters and kept four of them.

Slayter says Harper's reunion went just as he'd hoped.

"You know I'm just so over the moon for Pam, and feel just absolutely overjoyed that she's been able to come back to Nova Scotia and meet up with her son, just a charming young man," he said. 

Harper says her son has told her about his sister's circumstances, and she hopes she can visit her soon too. 

"My life now is complete, now I can rest. Now I can rest. No more worries," she said.