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Tag Archives: thyroid cancer

Pain and Church

16 Sep

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I saw a friend the other day that I haven’t seen in years. After the initial surface questions and conversation she broke down in tears. She shared about the many difficulties her daughter has had from a lifelong illness and also shared recent difficulties in her marriage. She expressed her exhaustion, her sadness and her hopelessness; she is at the end of her rope. As she was asking me how I was dealing with having cancer again my heart was breaking for her because she looked so defeated. What was more heartbreaking was after sharing her pain she said one of the last places she wanted to go was church; she’s angry with God, she didn’t want to be judged, and she didn’t want to hear any ‘Christian-ese’ talk. Knowing some of my past struggles and now cancer again she looked me straight in the eyes and asked, ‘How can you still have faith in God? How can you not be angry?’ Tough stuff. When did church become ‘unsafe’ for the heartbroken, hopeless, and weary? Why do we sometimes feel like we have to put on our ‘best face’ to go to church? These are just a few of the questions I’ve been asking myself for awhile.img_4188

I have a confession. When I first found out my cancer was back a year ago July, I also didn’t feel like going to church for awhile. Sometimes even now, over a year later, I still feel the same way. ‘With so much effort being poured into church growth, so much press being given to the benefits of faith, and so much flexing of religious muscle in the public square, the poor in spirit have no one but Jesus to call them blessed anymore.’~ Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church. I go to an awesome Christian church with great leaders and great people. I’ve been attending for over 20 years, have volunteered here, was on the worship team, and have gone on mission trips. I love it yet I wanted not to go after I got the news of cancer’s 4th return. Why? I can only speak for myself when I say that I didn’t want to put my happy, ‘God’s got this’ face on at a time when I felt raw, sad, and disappointed. I didn’t want to hear ‘Everything happens for a reason,’ or ‘God only gives you what you can handle.’  Phrases I’ve probably used before. Do we really think about things before we say them? I listened to a great interview with Dr. Caroline Leaf, a cognitive neuroscientist who spoke about this exact thing, watch it here. She says that Christians are so used to these words and phrases (‘Christianese’) that we have stopped thinking, have we? Maybe. These phrases, words, and easy responses sometimes take away from us listening, thinking and loving the people who are hurting. Words have power and when you’re hurting you hear every single word so when you are on the receiving end of these patent phrases that we use all.the.time. you can’t help but want to roll your eyes and think, ‘You have no idea.’ I’m sure it’s all well meaning.

So what was my response to my friend? I hugged her and stayed silent awhile. Then I told her I was so sorry she was in such pain and that I truly had no words. I told her to be gentle with herself, and that it’s ok not to smile. I look back at some of my pictures from the first few months post diagnosis and I’m smiling but my eyes are not. I told her I’m not mad at God and even though I don’t want to go to church sometimes I know that I still have God and more importantly He has me. I told her churches are filled with hurting people regardless of the shine of the facade but vulnerability and authenticity can only happen if we’re willing. I shared my pain and told her that illness and in her case, serious adversity can be lonely because most people can’t know exactly how you’re feeling. I told her that for me, that is the reason I can’t let go of my faith in God. At the end of the day if I don’t have faith that God is real, if I don’t have God to talk to and if I didn’t believe He loved me I would have nothing to hope for after this life and there would be no possibility of joy in crappy circumstances. How do you convince a broken person that God loves her? You start showing God’s love by listening and loving. ‘Tell the story of the mountain you climbed. img_4187Your words could become a page in someone else’s survival guide.’ I LOVE that quote from Morgan Harper Nichols. In my low moments I don’t remember many conversations but I do remember the encouraging notes, those who sit and pray with me, and the many hugs with no words…love. Can we think on our own and not defer to a Christian-ese phrase as a response to someone’s pain? ‘No one leads people to Jesus; He leads people to Himself. All the pressure’s off; just go love everybody without agenda.’~Bob Goff

Today I’m feeling the red lipstick just because. I chose Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Love Drunk which is a deep red. Love the name, love the color. Cheers!

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Chaos

23 Aug

 

img_3915I ended up in the emergency room yesterday, all is fine. Over the past few days I’ve been having periods of time when I can’t catch my breath to the point of getting dizzy. Yesterday I happened to be speaking to a customer/friend for my job at a local hospital and I told her about my breathing issues. I also said that I thought I may be having panic attacks because of all the things on my mind and she recommended I just go to the ER to rule out anything really serious since I do have cancer in my lungs. OK. Two hours and a CT scan later I got the ‘all clear’. The nurse basically said that besides the cancer I’m a picture of health. Good and bad. Good that it wasn’t anything serious, bad that I guess I’m right, I must be having panic attacks. Also bad that the multiple cancerous lung nodules are still there (for some reason with every CT I kind of expect the nodules to have miraculously disappeared-that’s called hope people).

What am I panicky about? I went through a mental list of all the things happening in my life at this moment because I didn’t think I was stressed about anything. After thinking about work and it’s challenges, kids leaving for college, kids still at home, new kids driving, new school year, new dreams taking shape, a half finished book I’m writing, finances (kids+college=$$$), etc…I guess there are lots of things on my mind, oh and I still have cancer.  Not all my stress is about bad stuff but the body can’t differentiate between good/excited stress and bad stress, it’s all the same. With all the moving parts and noise in my life it seems I live in chaos and there’s been one thing I KNOW I have given up over the last week or two and that’s stillness. I have been in such a rush every day that I haven’t sat down with God to read and chat in the morning. I haven’t really made the time to go to the gym (not stillness but good for me time) and until my head hits the pillow at night I don’t think my mind stops because I have not allowed it to. My bad. Plus I’m an introvert and quiet, alone, and stillness is a necessity for me to recharge.img_3722

I decided two things yesterday; not to miss my 5-10 minutes in the morning chatting with God and saying thank you for my blessings, and to finally jump in on the meditation bandwagon. I downloaded the Calm app (calm sounded like something I needed), and tried a free meditation in the parking lot while at work that was mainly 10 minutes of inhaling and exhaling. Through the breathing I said little prayers and within about 8 min I felt my body relax and just about fall asleep. Well ok, I pretty much fell asleep at the back of this parking lot for a few minutes, but when I opened my eyes there was a man standing about a foot away outside of my car; harmless, he was looking for his car and his back was to me but still…there went my calm. I should probably meditate at home.

We’ve lost our Sundays, our weekends, and our nights off — our holy days, as some would have it; our bosses, our email, our parents can find us wherever we are, at any time of day or night. More and more of us feel like emergency-room physicians, permanently on call, required to heal ourselves but unable to find the prescription for all the clutter on our desk.~Pico Iyer, The Art of Stillness

It’s so easy to forget to stop. We get pushed so much to ‘be all’ and ‘do all’ and ‘achieve’ that sometimes it’s easy to get caught up or feel like we might be missing something. I admit that after my last CT scan and finding out that I was still stable for a year, I pushed cancer aside and jumped right back in to ‘doing’ and forgot the ‘being’; being aware, being still. This scare was a call back.

When everything is moving and shifting, the only way to counteract chaos is stillness. When things feel extraordinary, strive for ordinary. When the surface is wavy, dive deeper for quieter waters.~Kristin Armstrong

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photo courtesy of Leanna Vite Photographu

Today my life is not really any less chaotic and I don’t foresee that part dramatically changing any time soon but I’ve been breathing a little easier. My husband showed me a video today called Why Your Life Is Not A Journey (you can watch it here: https://vimeo.com/176370337?ref=em-share). It basically talks about how we are always striving for the next thing like there’s some great finale when really the whole point of ‘dancing is the dance.’ In other words, the whole point of life is the living (at least that’s what I got out of it).

Today I wear Too Faced Throw Back Lipstick in Marcia, Marcia, Marcia which is bubble gum pink with glitter, there are several fun colors to choose from! These are actually moisturizing but I only chose this for fun and for the name. Marcia was always so chill while Jan kept striving. Inhale. Exhale. Cheers!

Amazing and Awful

27 Jun

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‘Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and the awful it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.’~L.R. Knost

Isn’t that the truth? Last Friday I took my daughter to her college orientation. Leaving her at the dorm the night before was awful (for me) and as I sat there in the silence of my hotel room I got teary-eyed thinking about all of my time with her leading up to this point. The orientation itself went well and it was pretty great seeing her be independent, meeting people, socializing, asking questions, I was so proud of the person she has become and is becoming. We ended the day by driving to northern Michigan to spend a few days at the lake; awful to amazing in less than 24 hours with some ordinary time to relax and exhale in between.

Last week I had my 3 month CT scan and as much as this has become a routine for me I was still anxious. I mean, I guess there are some things to be anxious about. I have formed a love/hate relationship with this because as much as I want to know if my cancer is stable, growing, (or gone), I also don’t want to know. I got the results over patient portal a few days ago and met with my doctor today. Right now ALL NECK AND

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They made me wear this today because I’m coughing

LUNG NODULES ARE STILL STABLE!!  Whew! So, awful last week, amazing today, and really awful (having cancer) and amazing (having stable disease) at the same time. There’s my current struggle. How do I act, process, make decisions and have lots of amazing moments but still have the awful undercurrent of cancer all.the.time.? Do I ignore it? Do I pretend I don’t have cancer and go about my merry way? Having cancer is not in my face all the time but it’s always looking at me through my rear view mirror, you know what I mean? It’s just always there so when prepping for my daughters prom, graduation, college orientation, it’s joyful and exciting but then in my ‘rear view mirror’ I’m reminded cancer follows and I start hoping I’m around for my son to do the same in a few years. Right now I’m 60/40; 60% looking forward , 40% distracted by cancer but I want to get to 90/10. How awesome would it be to have cancer thoughts only pop up 10% of the time. How awesome would it be to not have longer term visions and decisions be tinged with ‘but wait, I have cancer’; thoughts of retirement, grandkids, travel, etc. intertwined with I have cancer that’s really waiting to party in my body. It’s weird. I know I can’t ignore it or control it and I also know I don’t want it to consume me and influence every decision I make. Hmmmm . I was reading about courage again and read, ‘Alone of all creeds, Christianity has added courage to the virtues of the Creator. For the only courage worth calling courage must necessarily mean that the soul passes a breaking point and does not break.’~unknown

Here’s the good news. I don’t feel broken yet so maybe I’m brave. Maybe I have courage. My doctor told me today that since I’ve been consistently stable for the past year, we are going to stretch my CT scans to 6 months unless something changes in how I feel. I don’t want to hold my breath for 6 months. Maybe I’m feeling funky because it’s scan week. All I know is I want to live this ‘..heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life.’ I’ll take the awful, ordinary, mundane, and routine and be more intentional seeking out the amazing!

Today I wear Chantecaille Lip Chic lipstick in Nocturne. I LOVE these lipsticks. They have great color and are super moisturizing. I chose this color because it’s a bright berry which is perfect for summer or when your allergies make you look blah and you want just one pop of color! Cheers!

Sick

13 Jun
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Me and my baby brother recently 

I have heard more times than not that I don’t look sick. Believe me, it’s a great compliment. Over the past week or two there have been some significant events happen with people who don’t look sick. The shocking suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, and the sudden unexpected passing of my dental hygienist who was a young, 39 year old mom of 2. My kids and I had known and been going to ‘S’ as our hygienist for probably 10 years so the news came as quite a shock for all of us. She and I went to the same gym so I saw her every so often and what looked like a healthy young woman was suddenly gone. She didn’t look sick.

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2010, week 6 of radiation. Minus 30 pounds, burnt inside. Do I look sick?

I would venture to say that 99.99% of everyone has some type of ‘ailment’ they struggle with on the inside whether it’s anxiety, insecurities, mental health, or actual physical health that the world doesn’t see from the outside (or social media) appearance. I spoke to a coworker whose husband has suffered from cancer awhile and doesn’t always ‘look’ ill and told her the biggest thing to remember in terms of being a caregiver for someone with a chronic illness is that we generally function under 100% all the time. Meaning, our 100% is your 85% so I told her if he’s complaining that he’s not feeling well to have compassion because he’s really not feeling well and has actually fallen below that 85% which is his norm.  For me, I have compromised breathing…all.the.time., I can never run a marathon let alone run 5 minutes straight on a treadmill because I simply can’t breathe and it takes a while to catch my breath, my left arm and hand have been numb (and getting worse) for the past few years which means I can’t play the piano anymore or confidently hold a cup of coffee with my left hand, or go through a drive thru without reaching over with my right hand because I’m not confident with my left, and when I say I’m tired, I’m exhausted and of course there are other things I struggle with regularly. Oh and I have massive amounts of hair falling out from my radiation experiment from last April. So my feeling 100% good is really about equivalent to everyone else’s 85%. I keep a full time job, try to be at all my kids’ activities, and try to keep a smile on my face. It’s how I live and you can’t see that I’m at 85%.

What does that mean for all of us? We need to be more gentle with each other. We need to see each other with compassionate eyes and know that beyond the exterior smiles, Facebook posts, beautiful instagram pics, etc there are stories of pain, illness, suffering, insecurities, and internal struggles that plague all of us. ‘The more beauty we find in someone else’s journey, the less we’ll want to compare it then to our own.’~Bob Goff. We need to love more and frankly as a Christian I am sick of the Christians acting like judge and jury (that’s a whole other blog). Jesus came to show us how to love and show grace and mercy and the world needs plenty more of that. Love God, love others no matter what.

I have another scan coming up in a week and I’m a little scared. I read this quote today, ‘Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying I will try again tomorrow.’~Mary Anne Radmacher. Despite my apprehension I have trust in the One who carries my burdens on His shoulders so in my quiet voice I say thank you for another day. I’ll be ok. I hope I never really look sick but let’s all be aware that every single person is dealing with something we don’t see. Be kind. Be aware. Be loving.

She made broken look beautiful and strong look invincible. She walked with the universe on her shoulders and made it look like a pair of wings.’~Ariana Dancu

Today I wear Tom Ford lipstick in Violet Fatale. This may be the most expensive lipstick I own. These lipsticks are pretty amazing. I didn’t like them at first becuause I thought they were a little dry but recently I’ve come to appreciate the semi-moisturizing but long wearing power of these lipsticks. I chose this color because it’s  bright but not too crazy and fun for summer! Cheers!

Daughter

31 May

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This is the last week of high school for my daughter, my second born. I have to say that this week came upon me so fast. It’s been a tough year with the cancer re-emergence and I have to admit I was (am) a bit distracted so the other night when it was Senior Award Night and she had to put her cap and gown on, I got really teary-eyed. The finality of her high school days was staring me in the face. Have you ever read things about middle children or the second child? I never believed it because all kids are different but that was another factor in my shock and awe experience when she put on her cap and gown for honors night. When my oldest was a senior I was on top of every date and parent volunteer opportunity; the breakfast, the sr. sunset movie, the walk out, senior picnic, awards, prom, etc., all events were listed properly in my calendar and all t-shirts for each event ordered before the deadline. With my daughter, well, there has been a morning or two this past week of sudden stress because of a forgotten event and/or lack of order/deadline of t-shirt for said event, I have missed writing down dates in my calendar and honestly have sticky notes and flyers all over my desk (and that includes flyers and forms for the other kids). So, as I stood there watching her zip up that cap and gown, my heart burst. Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.’~Anne Frank

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There are so many things I want to say. Daughter, the day you were born your face was bruised because you were strong and you just wanted to push your way out into this world on your own terms. That same strength, drive, and strong will has pushed you to work hard in school and sports and has brought you to this point. I was beaming with pride as your name was called over and over for various awards at senior honors night but there is much more to life than those awards and thankfully, I know you know that. It sounds so cliche’ but you have grown into a beautiful, smart, and lovely young lady. I love your fresh faith and your growing sense of passion and purpose for the marginalized people of this world we live in. You are hope for the future and watching you grow has brought me so much joy. You graduating high school is bittersweet for me but I guess you can’t have the sweet without the bitter. When you leave for college I will miss your hugs, shopping and eating out with my favorite foodie, sitting on the couch, and simply your presence. Outside your bedroom door I have cried when you hurt, prayed for you, and felt your joy.  Life is full of surprises so always be pliable. You will love, you will hurt, people will disappoint you and sometimes you may even be angry at God. It’s ok. Always know that God’s love never changes and He’s always there. I will still cry with you, pray for you, and celebrate your joy even though your bedroom door will be miles away. Continue following your passions because God put them there and He will guide you. Always be grateful, stay curious, ask questions, and surround yourself with people that bring you joy. Letting go is not easy for me but I can’t wait to watch you fly. I love you baby girl. She is clothed in strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.~Proverbs 31:25

Lipstick today is Cherry Chapstick. It’s all I wore in college. Cheers to the Class of 2018!

 

 

Alive

20 May

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One day you and I will die, but before that day comes, let us live’~A. Arthur

Something happened after going through last month’s radiation experiment. When it was all said and done and when I found it didn’t work, I had overwhelming peace about everything. Maybe it’s all the prayers or just having simple faith and trust in God’s plan, but I have felt a complete shift in my mind. Since then, some of the weight of living with cancer has lifted off my shoulders and it’s been great. I think after the radiation I finally felt like I had done all I could in my power and now I could just let it go and truly leave it to the doctors and God. At church today we talked about defining moments and how during difficult times we want God to pull us out but sometimes He just gives us the strength to walk through and we just have to trust. Since the beginning of this crazy beautiful cancer journey in 2008 trust has been the theme; trusting God with HIS plan not MY plan. It has been 10 months since I first found out I had metastatic cancer. For 10 months my cancer tumors have been stable (not growing too quickly) and I am so grateful. Over the past 10 months I have shed tears and spent too much time contemplating the what ifs, but I’m done with that for now.  I’m alive, I feel pretty good, and I have today. I know I will still have ‘scanxiety’ at CT/PET scan time but…today’s good enough, no, today is great.

This past week I got to sing again and it’s been awhile. After losing function in a vocal cord and now having a little difficulty breathing my confidence level has waned but I was grateful for the img_2409opportunity. I picked a song with a lot of meaning to me along with lyrics that expressed exactly how I feel right now, needless to say, I got SUPER emotional. You can watch the performance here…'(https://youtu.be/mj9P47mkQ6wSo many things I thought would bring me happiness. Some dreams that are reality today. Such an irony the things that mean the most to me, are the memories I’ve made along the way. So if there’s anything I’ve learned from this journey I am on, simple truth will keep you going simple love will keep you strong. ‘Cause there are questions without answers, flames that never die, heartaches we go through are often blessings in disguise. Thank you lord, how could I ask for more?

I’m living with cancer but I’m alive. I don’t look sick so most people I run into would never know. I admit however that when I run into the ‘me’ monsters I do use it to shut them down. Are you familiar with the comedian Brian Regan and the skit ‘I walked on the moon’? It’s hilarious, you can watch it here (https://youtu.be/qBJ6yptGqm4). So yes, I’ve said, ‘Yeah? Well I have Stage 4 metastatic cancer.’ That usually stops people in their tracks. Sorry. We all have stuff we are dealing with which makes our lives richer. Now what? I’m alive. Don’t feel sorry for me, don’t look at me like I’m dying, and don’t assume I just want to stay home and rest (although that’s a pretty good assumption most of the time). Do keep praying, do ask questions (I’m ok talking about cancer and how things are going), and do buy me presents…hahaha. I love my life.

The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.~Eleanor Roosevelt

Just breathing isn’t living.~Eleanor H. Porter <<<——————-#truth!

Today I wear Fenty Gloss Bomb Universal Lip Luminizer. I’ve written about this before, I love it. It’s shiny, not sticky, and has a good amount of shimmer to it. It’s a warm gold which looks great on everyone and can be used alone or on top of whatever color. I chose it because everyone could use a little glitter in their day! Cheers!

I am a mom

11 May

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Mother’s day is around the corner and I am a mom. I am a mom with cancer. What does that mean on mother’s day for me? How have I changed?  This is hard to talk about. The first time I got cancer my kids were young and all I could think of was to fight for them. I have to say, what lessened the urgency or ‘scare’ from the word cancer for me was that I had thyroid cancer which I read about and was told even by my doctors that it was the easiest and best cancer to have because of the high cure rate. When things turned out a little more complicated after the first surgery I was scared and yes, I cried…a lot. My img_1886kids were only 5, 7, and 10 at the time and I wasn’t ready to leave them (are we ever ready to leave them?). I fought, I cried, I prayed, I survived and for the next 2 years cancer came back again twice but same thing, I fought, I cried, I prayed, and throughout those years and the surgeries, and the treatments, I tried to make their lives as normal as possible. I continued to work, I volunteered at their school, I brought cupcakes and donuts to their classes for their birthdays. I rarely missed anything.

Today, 10 years later, cancer is back and it decided to spread. My kids are older, facetune_01-04-2018-18-00-11one is in college, one is headed there next fall, and the youngest is in high school. I’m older, teens are more difficult, life is rarely quiet but I fight, I cry, I pray. Life is funny because there are always things you don’t want to miss. When the kids were younger and I got cancer all I wanted was more time to get them through high school. Now that they’re older I want to see them become adults, get married, maybe meet my grandkids, I want to see them fly and flourish and know that they’ll be ok.

I am a mom. Like all moms we have img_1634pieces of our hearts walking and breathing outside our bodies. We feel their hurts, we cry when they cry, we’re happy when they’re happy. We worry, we discipline, we direct, we pray, we love, we do the best we can. There are no perfect people or perfect moms but we can love and we can teach them to love. I am a mom with cancer. I may not meet the grandkids but I am planning to. I want to see them make good decisions but I can’t control them. I want them to know that my home is a safe place and that there is love waiting for them here. My love language is time and unfortunately with cancer time is what is threatened the most so that makes my heart hurt a little. Here’s the twist, they’re all older and preparing and wanting to launch so while I try to grasp tighter and grab more moments, they are at the age of friends and freedom, and adulthood, how’s that for crappy timing…but I guess there isn’t really a good time to get sick. So that’s what’s a little different with cancer. I hug a little longer, and grasp a little tighter even though they’re older and they grasp for freedom. I stare at them more because I want to notice and memorize and soak in every nuance of their faces. When they ask to grab coffee or a movie or dinner, I jump at the chance because it’s more time. I don’t get too wound up over dumb things and I let go of simple annoyances quickly because I mainly see things in ‘big picture’ now. I listen more intently and I constantly tell them how much I love them and I fight harder, I cry harder, and I pray harder. To all the moms, stepmoms, aunts, mother figures, teachers, mentors and the village helping raise our children, Happy Mother’s Day.

Maybe every year needs one day to live wide awake to celebrate that we get to call these people ours, that we get to be the one who gets seconds and minutes and hours and days and maybe even years to witness the wonder of them…We get the gift to love our people-and what if we don’t get the wonder of another? Maybe getting to love is getting the best gift of all.~Ann Voskamp

Today I wear MAC Liptensity Lipstick in Habanero. I was looking for something a little bright after my radiation treatment. I needed a little pick me up and this color did it! I love the texture of this lipstick formula and the color is awesome. Habanero is a bright orange/red and I love it. Like the name, this color is spicy and fun! Cheers!

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