Happy Birthday to ME!

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I don’t know that anyone appreciates this quote more than me…

Two years ago, I honestly wasn’t 100% sure that I would have any more birthdays and now I am so grateful for each and every one.

Last year, on my 30th birthday, I was blessed to be in Argentina on an all expenses paid, first class trip to Buenos Aires and Uruguay, compliments of Beachbody.

This year, I’m not on a cool vacation but instead I get to enjoy it with my kids and I am so very grateful for that.  And do you want to know why?  Having cancer taught me to appreciate every minute and make the most of them. There is no guarantee on the amount of time you have left and I’m going to continue to make every minute count.

My Year of Uncomfortable Goals, Dreaming Big and Never Giving Up!!

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Something I have started doing since I started coaching with Beachbody is setting yearly goals. Throughout the year, it helps me to look at the things I hope to accomplish and evaluate whether I am on track to meet those goals. So for the past week or so, I have been thinking about the things I want to accomplish within my business in the next twelve months and looking back over the past year to see which goals I was able to accomplish.

When I look back to where my career with Beachbody was at the beginning of last year, the changes are incredible. In the past 12 months from Jan 2013 to Jan 2014, my income has more than tripled. That’s a pretty amazing feat for a stay at home homeschool mama. During a year where I moved from Arizona to Oklahoma, where I was a single mom because my husband was deployed for more than ½ of the year, I was able to work from home and triple my income. The impact this has had on our family is unreal. When I decided to quit working full time to stay at home and homeschool Madison and any future children we would have, our household income took a significant hit. Not that we were struggling, but there wasn’t always extra money to do those fun things, to say yes to the kids, or to plan for the future. We were living day by day, using credit cards and now that is a thing of the past. We are able to plan out life goals for 5 or 10 or even 20 years from now – we have a plan to pay off our brand new house on 10 acres in the next five years and we aren’t worried about how we will pay for college for three kids. Prior to my career with Beachbody, none of that would have been possible.

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So what did I actually do last year??

It was a great year for me – and I was able to meet many of my goals!

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I ended the year as a 2 Star Diamond Coach and I was able to attend the Leadership Conference in California with a guest of my own.

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I hit Success Club 5 every month and earned a free cruise to Cozumel and Grand Cayman, plus $500 to spend while I am on the cruise!  And not only that, but I was able to help some of my team earn the trip for FREE as well!!

I was only a few dollars away from hitting my yearly income goal – which is still a healthy amount for my family and a huge blessing for us.

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Matt and I were able to buy our dream retirement home on ten acres, where we can start homesteading and achieve our dream of being sustainable – this would have been a stretch on his income alone, and we wouldn’t have been in a financial position to buy it. But with my additional income from Beachbody, we were not only able to purchase this house, but we will also be able to pay it off before he retires from the military in 5 years.

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With the incredible achievements of my team, I ended 2013 in the top .01% of the company! This wasn’t on my goal list, but it is one of the things I am really proud of in the last year.

So what is on the tap for this year??

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My slogan for the year is NEVER GIVE UP. Some of the goals I have on this list are the same goals I had this year. But with a new start, I’m ready to tackle them again with greater intensity and I will meet all of them in 2014. And since I will be focusing on helping my team achieve success this year, I will be teaching them not to give up on their dreams too – it’s never too late to TAKE CONTROL of your life and grab what you want!

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I want to help AT LEAST 100 people REACH their health and fitness goals in 2014.

I am going to complete the 21 Day Fix (multiple times!) and follow the meal plan and container system to completely cut out processed foods in 2014… and while we are on that note, my next goal is…

NO POP IN 2014… this has been my biggest struggle for years, but this will be the year I finally say No More!

I will get 1,000 subscribers to my blog, newsletter, and my YouTube channel and pass 2,500 Facebook friends. The reason for this is simple – the more people I can reach, the more people I can HELP! I love helping people meet their goals, and I love coaching them along the way!

I will sponsor 60 new coaches. I will help 10 of them hit Diamond, 5 hit Star Diamond, and 2 hit Premiere. During this year, I do plan to continue my personal growth within the company, but I want to focus MORE on the success of my team – I want to help them achieve the same success I have seen and one way I am going to do that is by focusing on creating strong training programs that will teach them to duplicate my success… and that leads into my next goal, which is to…

Make 104 YouTube videos this year (2 per week), a majority of which will be TRAINING videos for my team.

I will hit SC 10 by the 10th of every month – not just hit is every month, but hit is by the 10th so I can spend the rest of the month focusing on the success of my TEAM.

I will be an ELITE coach in 2014.

By December of 2014, I will match Matt’s income and, as a result,

I WILL pay off my house with Beachbody income by 2018 before Matt retires from the Air Force.

And, now that I have shared all my goals with you, I want to share this – if you have ever even thought about becoming a coach or want to know more about coaching, now is the time to take action. It’s the beginning of a new year, it’s a time when your family and friends (and maybe you too) are ready to take control of their health! It’s a chance for you to connect with them and help them improve their lives physically, emotionally, financially.

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If you are looking for a source to earn extra income or replace income, please contact me. I am currently accepting applications for my 2014 One on One Mentorship program. This is a chance for you to be part of a team that is in the top .01% of the company. I’m only accepting a limited number of applicants so that I can devote my time and guidance to you, one on one and honestly, I can only do that for a small number of people at one time. But if you would like to be mentored by a top coach in this company, someone who is motivated to help others meet their goals, be part of an amazing team that is like a family to me, and have access to a system that will ensure you reach your goals, please watch this video and fill out the application below to be considered for a spot on my team.

Amy Allen star diamond coach

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Now Accepting Applications!

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Want to learn how you can earn a full time income working from home and earn free vacations for your family while helping yourself and others achieve their health and fitness goals?

Beachbody is the company that makes P90X, Insanity and the 21 Day Fix. They also sell the top nutrition supplement on the market, a meal replacement with more than 70 superfoods called Shakeology. They also have an amazing home business opportunity like Pampered Chef or Scentsy but without the parties. Basically it works like this – you get amazing results with Beachbody products, share the benefits with your friends and family, and you make a commission off anything that is ordered through you.

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I have been working as a coach for Beachbody for about 18 months now. I started when I was going through chemotherapy and drinking Shakeology really helped me during my treatments. It’s a quality product that I love and believe in. I never expected that this would be the start of a career for me, but having cancer was a wake up call for me.  I wanted to be around to take care of my kids, and having cancer made me realize that I needed to change the way I was eating, exercising, and taking care of my body.

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I started running monthly challenge groups for my friends and family, to help them start exercising, eating clean, and taking care of themselves.  I wanted to pass on what I had learned to everyone that I knew.  I watched my friends start getting results, feeling better about their health and becoming more confident.  Aside from being a mom, it’s the most fulfilling job I’ve ever had.

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By the end of my first year as a coach, I was making as much as I used to make at my full time job, before I stopped working to stay at home with my kids. By this summer, I had doubled that amount. I’m on track to be making a six figure income this year, working from home.  In my first year, I also ended up earning a free trip to Disneyworld with my family and then another one to Argentina.  In my second year, I earned a trip to Dana Point California and a cruise to Cozumel and Grand Cayman.

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I started out working 1-2 hours per day and now I work 3-4 on a long day. The extra income we have has allowed us to become financially free on a military income and we are able to live without stress about money.

I am looking for people who believe in the company and our products, who want to end obesity and disease, to join my team. I will be working with you one on one with them to create the same sort of results that I have seen in my own business. If that is a step you are ready to take, watch this video and submit your applications via the link below.  I look forward to hearing from you!

APPLY HERE!

The Neulasta Shot

I knew chemotherapy would be bad. I knew it would make me sick, nauseous, and tired. But I didn’t realize that the shot the next day would be worse. I had chemotherapy every other week. And the day after chemo, I went back in to get a Neulasta shot to boost my white blood cell production.

 

From what I understand, the Neulasta shot basically tells your body to start producing more white blood cells because the medicine in the chemotherapy is going to kill all the ones your already have. It’s like what happens when you get the flu – the way your bones start to hurt – times seven. I dreaded going in for the shot more than going in for chemo. Not only did the actual shot hurt (and I’m not a baby about shots, but this one was bad), but it also made my bones hurt. Bad. Like I couldn’t take a shower for several days bad because each tiny drop of water felt like a bullet hitting my bones.

 

But as much as I wanted to (and I REALLY wanted to…) I never skipped it. And I never got really sick. I was never hospitalized for low cell counts, and I was never hospitalized for extreme sickness, so for me, I have to say it was worth it. If you are on the fence about it, do it. And if you are thinking about skipping it, don’t.

Overdoing it

Okay, I can’t be the only oneIMG_0498 who does this. As soon as I found out I had cancer, I was scared. I was scared that I wouldn’t be there to raise my kids. I was scared that my two boys wouldn’t remember who I was. I was scared that someone else would help my daughter get ready for her wedding or be the one to hold my grandchildren.

So I overdid it.

If something happened to me, I wanted to make sure that I went out with a bang. I wanted to create memories that even if the boys didn’t remember, they could at least look back at the pictures and think of me. I wanted to take my daughter to her first concert, even through she was only eight because what if I wasn’t there to do it when she turned fifteen. I wanted to take my son to meet his favorite person in the world, Mickey Mouse. I wanted to dress up like The Incredibles for Halloween because we had the perfect family for it and what if I wasn’t there next year to do it with them? I wanted to create the biggest, best birthday parties my kids had ever had because what if it was the last one I had with them? I wanted to be there to see them do everything.

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And so I overdid it. Really, in just one short month, before I even started my chemotherapy, I packed it in.

I took Madison to her first concert, Taylor Swift. It was a surprise for her eighth birthday. We got makeovers and sang along at the top of our lungs.

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The whole family got in the car and drove to Disneyland so Mason could meet Mickey Mouse and have one last family vacation before starting what we expected to be a miserable six months. 

We didn’t dress up like the Incredibles that year. I ordered the costumes but the sizes didn’t match up… it just wasn’t meant to be in that time. But the costumes were bought and I let my husband know that they needed to be the Incredibles the next year if I wasn’t around. But I was. And we were.

IMG_9521 I had the BEST birthday parties ever. And I had always been a little extreme with cakes, but this year, I went over the edge. I set the standard high – I’m going to have to dial it back in over the next few years.

And do you know what positive thing came out of this? We lived. People always ask “What would you do if you knew this was your last day?” We lived like these were my last days. We created memories. And the experience taught me to appreciate life, to not take any time for granted, to not think that one day we’ll get around to it, to do it now before it’s too late. Each day is a gift. Unwrap it. And then go ahead and make the most of it.

Product Reviews: Shakeology

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Product Reviews:

There are so many products I use, things I’ve discovered by trial and error and I wish someone would have just told me from the gate… so this is the first post in a series of products I would recommend to someone going through cancer treatments.  These are products I used, I loved, and I depended on during my treatment.

 

Shakeology

 

Shakeology is a nutrition supplement. You can add it into a normal diet or use it as a meal replacement. In my opinion, it is the best on the market. It is 100% natural, no artificial ingredients or sweeteners, and it contains more than $40 of fruits and veggies in each glass.

It also has over 70 super foods, including many that are associated with cancer fighting or cancer prevention (check out my board on pinterest for some of the ingredients that are thought to fight or prevent cancer and what they do!!).

 

I initially ordered Shakeology to lose weight after my youngest son was born. When I found out I had cancer and started chemotherapy, I decided to keep drinking it as a nutrition supplement. There are so many days that you just don’t feel like eating and I always felt that even if I didn’t have anything else to eat that day, I would feel good knowing that I had all those fruits, veggies, vitamins, minerals and super foods already in my body.

 

As I went through chemo, I realized that Shakeology seemed to be helping me deal with the side effects typically associated with treatments. Let me give you some examples…

 

One side effect of chemotherapy is constipation. On days of my actual treatment and 2-3 days after, I didn’t drink Shakeology. I developed an aversion to everything I ate on those days. And during those 2-3 days, I could not go to the bathroom. My nurses prescribed a stool softener for me but it didn’t seem to make any difference. I soon realized that as soon as I had my shake on Day 3, I would go to the bathroom within 30 minutes. It wasn’t a fluke. It happened every time. Even my husband noticed and when I would complain about constipation, he would tell me to go drink my shake. And this makes total sense! One of the things that Shakeology does is improve your digestion and regularity.

 

Another place I noticed reduced side effects was in my hair loss. One of the ingredients in Shakeology is Maitake mushroom (more on that in another post!). It is thought by the American Cancer Society to reduce hair loss during chemo (link) and it is in Shakeology! You can read more about my hair loss journey here or watch my YouTube video here but to sum it up – I didn’t lose all my hair! Over the course of 6 months, I only lost about 1/3 and kept enough that I never had to shave my head. And the rate it has come back in has been phenomenal. I’m not going to lie. My hair has always grown fairly fast, but since starting Shakeology, it’s growing at about twice it’s normal speed – almost an inch each month. And that’s not just my opinion. I’ve brought this up numerous times and my fellow Shakeology drinkers agree – it significantly speeds hair growth and improves the health of your hair.

 

I experienced very little nausea. I was given a nausea medicine via IV prior to starting each treatment. But I was also sent home with additional nausea medicine that I never had to take. And I think Shakeology might be part of the reason for that. The Maitake Mushroom among other ingredients is thought by the American Cancer Soceity to reduce the side effects of chemo, including nausea. And guess what. Yep, that’s right, it’s in Shakeology.

 

Finally, there’s the energy factor. Shakeology fuels your body with the food you need and the difference it makes in your energy level is amazing. I felt tired for 2-3 days post treatment but once I was back on my shake, my energy shot back up. I literally had more energy during my treatments than I had had for the four years prior. And I still had a newborn baby waking up several times a night!

 

This product literally helped me so much, I wanted to share it with everyone I knew. I signed up to be a health and fitness coach through the company who produces the product so I that could continue to share it with my friends and family as well as other people who are going through cancer treatment. It’s a product that I fully believe in and have been drinking daily for a year and a half. And the way it makes me feel is so amazing, I will continue drinking it for the rest of my life.

 

*Just as a disclaimer – Drinking Shakeology did not cure my cancer. I believe that was caused by completing my treatment plan and through the power of prayer. But I do believe that Shakeology lessened the side effects of chemo because mine were significantly less than anyone else I know. I also believe that changing your diet will decrease the chance of cancer returning in the future. I AM NOT A DOCTOR. I am just an ordinary person, sharing my personal experience. You will have to decide what is best for your future.

 

Read more about Shakeology here!

 

Foreshadowing

I’ve noticed a trend in my life. Anytime I start to get complacent or cocky or think “that could never happen to me,” that exact thing happens to me.

 

For example, I watched Super Nanny one time – remember that show? And I remember thinking “I’m so lucky; my daughter would never act that way.” And later that day, she acted exactly that way, throwing an outrageous fit in front of my friends. Completely embarrassing.

 

Another example. I was at church one time, listening to someone asking for prayers because of a situation going on in their lives that required a lawyer. I specifically remember thinking how lucky I was that in my life I never dealt with situations like that, and that same day, I ended up needing a lawyer.

 

Seriously. This happens to me a lot. And when it happens, it’s like I need a lesson in humility.

 

A few days before my youngest son was born, my mom called me to tell me my grandfather had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. We had a long conversation about what his treatment options were. I thought he shouldn’t even attempt chemo. I had seen what it does to people, especially older people, and I didn’t want to see him go through that. I thought he should just enjoy the rest of the life he had left. My mom disagreed. She thought he should have chemo and fight it, prolong life as long as he could.

 

I clearly remember thinking “I’m so glad I don’t have to make this decision.” I knew what I would do. I would fight. I had two (almost three!) kids to raise. They would need to know their mama. I didn’t want someone else to be their “mom.” But I never thought I would have to make that decision within a few months. I never expected to be going through chemo with my grandfather and comparing out war stories and our port scars. It was like a smack back to reality – don’t get too comfortable. Don’t get too cocky. Because that’s when the hard lessons have to be learned.

Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Symptoms

You know how people say when you are sick, the last thing you should do is search your symptoms? Web MD is going to make it sound much worse than it actually is… Well, here is some irony for you. When I found the lump in my neck, of course I googled it. I found this crazy type of cancer called Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I read all the symptoms for it and I had them all! But my husband convinced me that I was just projecting – like how when someone talks about your eyes watering, they actually start to water? Or when someone mentions chest pains, you automatically have chest pains? So I didn’t pursue it. I ignored my swollen lymph node, sure that I was overreacting and didn’t need to worry about it. I probably just had an infection, and besides, I didn’t fit into the group that makes you “more likely” to have it. The only thing I had in common with those people was my age!

Luckily for me, I had a persistent doctor who referred me to a ENT specialist. He took my symptoms seriously and now, the symptoms that I had had for several years, things I had just accepted as a part of my life, are all gone. And because I think there are people out there who would also be tempted to ignore these things, I just want to share a bit about how my symptoms appeared and how they felt.

Itching

In retrospect, my most obvious symptom was severe itching. It’s a very common symptom for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. And when I say severe, I am not exaggerating. It started in my legs and I was pretty sure it was the weather. I started buying a special exfoliator to use on my legs and shaving more and more frequently. It didn’t help.

I was convinced it was a dermatology issue, but I didn’t really have ready access to a dermatologist in Japan. So I self-prescribed treatment – I changed soaps, I changed laundry soap – to no avail. I googled it and read that it might be caused by soda, which I no longer drank, or by silver amalgam fillings. So I didn’t worry about it. All the while, it was getting worse and worse. My husband told me I would scratch in my sleep to the point it kept him awake and I literally would scratch my legs every time I sat down. I was at the point that I didn’t even notice anymore; it was just my life.

The pinnacle of my itching came when we moved to Arizona. This was about three weeks before my youngest son was born, about six weeks before discovering the lump. We bought a new bed and new sheets and when I went to bed that night, my whole body itched, I couldn’t sleep. I jumped out of bed and tore the sheets off, washed them in the hottest possible water on allergy mode, dried them and while I was waiting for them, I took the hottest shower possible, shaved and did the “treatment” I typically did on my legs – shaving, exfoliation, nothing extreme. No relief. When I laid down again about two hours later, I was still just as miserable as I had been.

About two months into my chemo, my itching went away completely. My husband was the one who noticed. I quit scratching in my sleep and don’t even worry about my exfoliation that I couldn’t live without before. It’s pretty crazy how much that was affecting my life and I didn’t even realize it any more.

Fatigue

This was my least obvious symptom. When I first started experiencing fatigue (about the same time my itching appeared!), I was pregnant with my middle child. Shortly after he was born, before he was even sleeping through the night, I got pregnant again and miscarried. A few months later, I got pregnant again with my youngest son. So over the course of the four years, I was pregnant, nursing a newborn, getting very little sleep, and then doing it all over again. I just thought it was normal to be that tired. So for about four years, I went to bed around 8/8:30 every night unless I had somewhere to be. And regardless of how much sleep I got, I woke up tired still. I honestly thought that was normal but it is not. About two months into chemo, my fatigue went away. Completely. And I still had a newborn to get up with every night and take care of AND I was going through chemotherapy. And I was less tired than I had been in over four years.

Night Sweats

This was one of the last symptoms that appeared for me and I attributed it to being pregnant. But after my son was born, I was still having night sweats. It literally was like I was in menopause but I was only 28. I would wake up at night completely drenched in sweat. I started wearing fewer clothes, not sleeping under covers, turning the AC down, turning on the fan but it didn’t matter how cold it was, I was waking up completely drenched. This is actually considered one of the more aggressive symptoms, which makes sense since it showed up about six weeks before I noticed the lump and about the same time that the itching because completely unbearable.

Swollen Lymph Nodes

This is the most obvious symptom and the one I eventually went in for. Both of the lymph nodes in my neck were swollen, one felt about as big as a nickel (what I could feel) and the other about the size of a pea. They were hard, almost like rubber, not soft at all. I honestly just thought I had an infection, probably strep throat because my throat also hurt and that’s why I scheduled a doctor’s appointment.

When I had my surgery to remove the largest node and have it biopsied, it was about the size of a golf ball, much bigger than it had felt on the surface. The PET scan also discovered four other large spots as well as many small spots forming that I couldn’t feel. Common places that you will notice swollen lymph nodes are in your neck or under your armpits and if you feel any, I strongly recommend that you get them checked out, especially if you are experiencing any additional symptoms.

Other symptoms I didn’t have

  • Fever and chills that come and go
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss that cannot be explained

Due to the nature of the symptoms with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, people rarely go to the doctor before they discover a lump. Most of the symptoms are not ones that you would expect to accompany cancer. And as a side note, all of my initial blood work came back perfectly normal. If my doctor hadn’t been persistent, I wouldn’t have worried about it and just gone on living in denial because I had normal blood work. Take it seriously. The sooner it is diagnosed, the better the prognosis.

Telling your kids you have cancer

I have three kids. When I found the lump in my neck, my youngest was about three weeks old, my middle child was only two and my oldest was almost eight. Of course the younger two were too little to understand what was going on, but my daughter was scared. She didn’t know what was going on and I didn’t know what to say to her. Sitting down with her, trying to find a way to explain to her what cancer is, what it can do, and that I had it was one of the hardest things I have ever done and in retrospect I probably did it all wrong.

We found out I had cancer on a Friday. My husband took me to the doctor. When we got home, he went into work, shared with his boss the situation and was immediately sent home. On Sunday, we went to church and I shared that I had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I am a firm believer in the power of prayer and I wanted prayers right away. We had only lived in Arizona about three months so I was amazed at the outpouring of emotion I saw there. People were praying for me, hugging me, crying… there was an outpouring of emotion that was not at all what I had expected. Up until this point, I hadn’t really talked with my daughter about what was happening beyond saying I was sick, but when she saw people crying and hugging me, she started to realize the severity of the situation. At this point, I knew I should have talked with her prior to sharing it with other people. Hindsight is 20/20.

You never want to tell your kids you might be dying. I didn’t want to scare her. I never mentioned the word cancer or talked about dying, although she eventually realized that lymphoma is cancer and cancer is deadly. But I never said I wouldn’t die either. I didn’t want to lie, and that’s a real possibility when you have cancer. Ultimately, I just shared that I had something called lymphoma, and that even though I didn’t look or feel sick right now, there was a sickness in my body that I had to fight. And that fight, going through chemo, was going to make me a lot sicker before I got better. I think presenting it that way was a good way to explain it – she was prepared for me to be sick and knew that it was normal, nothing to be scared about.

Now we are past it, I have been trying to pay it forward. My husband, the kids, and I participate in walks to raise money for Lymphoma research and I think it really increases their awareness of how many people this affects. Being diagnosed with cancer is not something that just happened to us – it’s something that changed our lives – and from the other side of that journey, I can see that it was a blessing. Nothing but good has come from this and now I want to make sure that my kids can see that. Even in times of adversity, search for the positive.

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