Brian Lenihan wore his illness so lightly that his family "dared to hope" he would pull through, his aunt Mary O'Rourke said yesterday.
He rarely talked about his illness intimately.
"He steeled himself for it. At times he looked so well and so strong that we thought that he would pull through," the former minister recalled yesterday in an interview with Marian Finucane on RTE.
Mrs O'Rourke recalled her nephew's speech at Beal na mBlath some 10 months before he died.
"He spoke so strongly and looked so well that we dared to hope. I said to a friend of mine on the way home that night 'he will pull through'," she said.
Mrs O'Rourke was speaking about a new book to commemorate the life of Mr Lenihan, who died from pancreatic cancer at age 52 in June 2011, which is serialised in the Sunday Independent today.
In her essay, Mrs O'Rourke, castigates the current Government for not admitting that they are following Lenihan's economic recovery plan.
"They have never seen fit to say to the Irish people 'we are following the four-year National Recovery Plan, as laid out by Brian Lenihan'. I hold and treasure that plan," the former government minister writes.
However, Mrs O'Rourke is scathing in her criticism of her own party leader. "I am always disturbed that Micheal Martin, as leader of the party, never stands up for Brian or defends his memory in Dail Eireann," she said.
A spokesman for Mr Martin last night said he accepted Mrs O'Rourke's comments about the current government, but insisted he has often defended Mr Lenihan.
"The memory of Brian Lenihan is held in the highest regard throughout Fianna Fail. His contribution to the country's economic recovery was immense, as the party leader has repeatedly made clear in Ard Fheis speeches, Cairde Fail speeches and in repeated media appearances."
Brian Lenihan: In Calm and Crisis, contains essays by Christine Lagarde, Patrick Honohan, Eamon Ryan, Mary O'Rourke, Mary McAleese, Martin Mansergh, Ray MacSharry, Cathy Herbert, Alan Ahearne and Noel Whelan.