"One thing that is difficult to overcome is the fact that statistics relating to survival for pancreas cancer are so grim. My advice would be to think of yourself as being your very own statistic... and to not get bogged down with all the negatives."
As someone who is alive and well more than two years after a pancreatic cancer diagnosis, 44-year-old Alison Stunt is better placed than most to offer advice to finance minister Brian Lenihan as he begins his own very public battle against the disease.
The Surrey-based mother of two teenage boys knows only too well what it is like to have to fight the disease while trying to help your offspring cope with the harsh realities.
"I think we all as a family took everything step by step, but I know it has affected them. I know it sounds strange, but as a parent, you also have an element of guilt because they're going through something that they wouldn't have to if it wasn't for me."
A previously fit and healthy non-smoker, Stunt went to her doctor in August 2007 after she developed a pain in her back and upper abdominal area, accompanied by significant pain after eating.
Eventually, after a variety of diagnoses, she was found to have the disease. Luckily – if such a word can really apply – she was in the minority of people deemed eligible for an operation.
She had 80% of her pancreas and her entire spleen removed in a five-hour operation on 8 September that year. She remembers the date in part because Pavarotti died two days earlier from the disease.
After that, it was six months of chemotherapy, once a week every week, followed by further treatment.
It will be of interest to Lenihan to hear that while her chemotherapy treatment was ongoing, she was relatively well.
"I actually tolerated it quite well. You see on television people losing their hair and hugging the toilet bowl. But I didn't lose my hair and I really wasn't very sick with my chemo. I felt like I had been knocked down by a truck when I did my chemotherapy session, but the following day I was up doing the school run. I would feel as if I had a little bit of a cold the next day... but certainly if you are working from home you can probably do that."
An outspoken patient advocate for Pancreatic Cancer UK, she believes it is hugely important to remain positive when battling the disease.
More than two years on from her diagnosis, despite having developed "manageable" diabetes, she says she feels "as well as I ever have" and is hopeful that she has won her battle.
"My advice would be to surround yourself with positive people, and try to keep as healthy as possible. There can be hope, and people have got to cling to that."
When Patrick O'Callaghan started getting back pains last September, little did he think that within weeks he would be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
"It's like being hit by a steamroller. It's like your time is up, there is no cure," the recently retired college lecturer says from his home in Killybegs, Co Donegal.
As he speaks, his conversation is peppered with pauses where he tries to catch his breath. This is a direct effect of the lifelong smoker's deteriorating condition, as the disease has now moved towards his lungs.
O'Callaghan had not thought much of the recurring back pains which he first noticed in September of last year. But when they continued, he decided to visit his doctor in October.
A few weeks later, and still in pain, the 66-year-old was told to make his way to Letterkenny General Hospital as soon as possible. He recalls arriving there during the mid-afternoon early last November – but having to wait until early the next morning to get a bed, at around 5.30am.
In the meantime, he had to sit in a corridor waiting his turn. "I'm not giving out about the doctors and nurses. But they're operating under archaic conditions," he says.
Less than a week later, a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer was confirmed at the Mater hospital in Dublin. O'Callaghan says he sympathyises with finance minister Brian Lenihan and "anyone who is diagnosed with cancer".
But his own private battle is all-consuming. Since November alone he has lost more than two stone, and has seen his energy levels plummet to the point where he struggles to fill a kettle or shave himself.
Meanwhile, others within his tight-knit family are also trying to come to terms with the devastation his diagnosis has brought.
Not least of these are his "heartbroken" wife and children. All of his five offspring – two girls and three boys – are grown up. All bar one are living away from home.
"Their reaction has been one of complete shock, to see their Daddy who was never sick, and always a strong person, laid low," he says. "The shortness of breath, and the pain, is getting progressively worse. It's hard to describe. You cannot describe the taste of carrot, you have to taste it yourself. But the pain doesn't let you sleep."
O'Callaghan starts his chemotherapy next week. For now, he is focusing on the future, and is determined to make the most of whatever time he has left.
One highlight is his daughter's planned wedding in Donegal next month. "I just hope I'll be there for it and be able to walk her up the aisle," he says. "I'm taking it each week as it comes. You have to be positive. There is no point in letting this thing beat you."