Stephen Smith from Celbridge was brushing his teeth when his wife noticed one of his nipples was inverted. Five days later the 43-year-old father of two was diagnosed with breast cancer.
"I was shocked," says Stephen. "But once the doctors told me it was very treatable I relaxed. I am an engineer so when people tell me they can fix something I believe them."
But even though Stephen managed to take the news in his stride, things changed when it came to telling his family and friends, even though their support would be crucial to his recovery.
"That is when things suddenly became difficult," says Stephen, who has now recovered from his cancer. "It was the day after I had been told, but when you have to tell others it really brings it home.
"I think when people hear you have cancer they don't know what to do to help you. But some were very good at giving really practical help. Things like making dinner for the family so it is one less thing you have to worry about when you arrive home from getting treatment. Everyone who suffers from cancer has a journey to go on and it is important they have the support to help them."
In fact, this is such an important element when it comes to recovery that the Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI) has just issued 10 tips on how to best help someone when they are diagnosed with cancer, in the run up to the Irish Cancer Society's Daffodil Day, which takes place this Friday.
"The research in this area offers really valuable and sometimes surprising guidance," says Dr Paul D'Alton, head and clinical lead of the department of psycho-oncology at St Vincent's University Hospital. "Perhaps the two most important things to remember are that emotions will not follow in neat stages and that over-emphasising being positive can actually be an additional burden to the person diagnosed with cancer."
With over 200 different types of cancer and one in three Irish people affected, the PSI hopes these tips will not only heighten the awareness of cancer but the importance of how best to help and support someone who has just been diagnosed.
1 Being 'positive' doesn't always help. Trying too hard to be positive can end up making people miserable. Facing up to uncertainty and insecurity may be painful, but it can be much more helpful to manage the ups and down of a cancer diagnosis.
2 Don't be afraid to say, 'I don't know what to say.' Learn to just listen. Everyone's response to a cancer diagnosis is unique.
3 Don't expect emotions to progress along in neat stages. This experience will unfold as a process and there will be many ups and downs where their needs change on a day-to-day (or sometimes hour-to-hour) basis.
4 Avoid advice giving. This can be unhelpful and make people feel they should be 'doing a better job' at coping than they are. Advising people to keep positive and battle on is not helpful for everyone.
5 Try not to personalise. Try to remember that your partner or friend or family member may be angry at the situation and not at you.
6 Eat well, exercise and get enough sleep. By taking care of yourself you are in a much better position to care for others.
7 Don't be afraid to ask for help, and say 'no' when you need to. If you are supporting a loved one with cancer it's important to know your own limits. Now is a good time to call in favours by letting others help you and acknowledging what you can't do.
8 Be practical. Avoid vague offers and instead be specific and practical about how you might be able to help. 'I can collect the kids on Tuesdays and Thursdays' or 'I can bring you to the hospital on Fridays' are clear, solid offers that you're more likely to be taken up on.
9 One of the surprising ways to manage stress is by trying to stop wanting things to be different from how they are right now. We can cause ourselves additional suffering simply by wanting things to be different.
10 Try to focus on today and the moment at hand, rather than yesterday or the future. A diagnosis like cancer propels our minds into the future or back to the past. It is important to concentrate on the here and now.
For more information on dealing with cancer call the National Cancer Helpline on Freefone 1800 200 700 or visit www.cancer.ie