Tag Archive | Happy

A new beginning to an old problem…

 Those of you that have been following us since day One, know that we have had our ups and downs with our healthcare system regarding Mermaid’s nevus. For the most part we feel taken care of and have access to care in many forms. However, we do not have access to a pediatric dermatologist or one who specializes in “Genetic skin diseases”; which has left us perplexed at times and receiving a variety of responses and care plans that range from aggressive to very passive. Several years ago I requested to see a specialist at Oregon Health and Science University and was denied. In recent months Mermaid has developed new spots and symptoms that sent us searching for another avenue to make our way up the hill.

This past week, our persistence and patience paid off. At the recommendation of a fellow Nevus Mommy’s pediatric Dermatologist on the East Coast, we got our day with Dr. Kroll. A pediatric Dermatologist that specializes in genetic skin diseases. Leading up to today I knew what we wanted answered specifically and got those answers, plus some. The main concerns I wanted addressed were… What are these new spots that don’t appear to be nevus? Will she have to have surgery at school age? Despite the biopsy not showing ILVEN, is it still a possible diagnosis? and what is her real risk factor for a Wilm’s Tumor?

I will start with what we learned followed by the answers to our questions and then our treatment plan.

Mermaid’s main diagnosis was Epidermolytic Hyperkeratosis (EHK) with Linear Epidermal Nevus (LEN). We have always focused on the LEN and put little to no thought into the EHK, aside from it being a bit more rare than the LEN. Well, news to us… the EHK comes with its own potential complications. We learned that sometimes, a female with EHK on one side of the body may have it on that parallel ovary. If/when she chooses to have children she runs the risk of passing on that gene in a full body form called Ichthyosis to her children. This is a small possibility, studies have shown that it’s a 2-10% chance but we were advised to have her be seen in genetics as a late teen to further discuss this and they hope with medical advancements that they will have a test to better diagnose whether or not the disease is actually on her ovary.

He felt certain that she does not now, nor ever will she, have any of the larger complications of her LEN resulting in the syndrome. Those symptoms typically arise at a very early age, with the exception of potential learning disabilities such as delayed speech, which has never been an issue, trust me – she speaks just fine and knows more than she should to be only 4!  He reminded us that any small lump beneath the skin should be checked as there is a risk for squamous cells to develop.

As we already knew, he reiterated that there is no effective preventative medical treatment, we should see the extent of her disease by puberty and along the way there are two different laser treatments that may help in minimizing some of her nevus but the only true treatment would be complete excision with the trade-off of scars.

With some new and old but reassuring information we got the chance to clarify some of our burning questions…

What are Mermaid’s new spots that don’t appear to be nevus?

Unfortunately, Mermaid got cursed with two genetic diseases. What we originally thought was eczema, then a potential reaction to a soy allergy has now been confirmed as Psoriasis.

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At the time of her appointment Mermaid had roughly 27 spots like the one above spanning head to toe. Including her face. If you saw our previous post about the mystery spots, it was also confirmed that the scales beneath her eye are Psoriasis.

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Will she have to have surgery at school age?

The long and short of this question is still, we don’t know. The area of concern is Mermaid’s hand. Her Nevus grows thickest at her wrist and top of her left  hand. This is also the only area that has cracked and bled. When her Nevus breaks open she is at risk of further infection. It can also cause pain and limited movement when it grows over the joints. His initial feeling is no, we will NOT be doing surgery next year. This was a huge relief, the thought of putting my child under and performing a very painful excision at such a young age was worrisome. The reason we cannot get a direct yes or no to the surgery question is that Mermaid’s form of Nevus grows with no rhyme or reason and putting a definitive answer on the future is nearly impossible. If it remains as is or has only a small amount of growth we are in the clear. If it grows extensively in the next year we run a higher chance of following through with surgery. One of my fellow Nevus Mommy friends shared pictures and experiences of her daughter’s hand surgery and it truly broke my heart. She is incredibly strong and did great but it was far from a pleasant experience for her or Mom.  Please, please, please… keep your fingers crossed!

Despite the biopsy not showing ILVEN, is it still a possible diagnosis?

In the big scheme of things the difference in diagnosises is minimal and doesn’t mean a whole lot. So why would I care? Up until now, I have been told that ILVEN can be treated with steroids to reduce discomfort, redness and inflammation. I have asked before about using it for her bothersome areas but was told it is not a treatment used for LEN. Being seen on the hill was my goal because they are the specialists and just as I originally suspected, he said that even IF another biopsy showed ILVEN, it would NOT change the treatment plan. He stated that ILVEN & LEN are treated the exact same and we would begin treating it today.

and last but certainly not least… That lingering fear since Day one of her diagnosis…

What is her real risk factor for a Wilm’s Tumor?

The very first day Mermaid was diagnosed we were told point-blank that we needed to be aware of something called a Wilm’s tumor, childhood kidney cancer. She would be at risk until age 5. Since that day I have probably prayed harder than any Mom out there for her 6th birthday. I have vowed it would be the party of the century because that day, she would no longer be at risk and I could lay my anxieties surrounding this cloud to rest. Along the way the other dermatologists did not all agree but they also didn’t dispel the possibility. Nobody seemed to have numbers or facts supporting it so we continued to be aware.

Dr. Kroll finally put a stop to the worry. He seemed a bit surprised as we told him about this and very matter of fact stated that he has never heard this, especially in an otherwise healthy child without the syndrome. He said that if she had some of the big components of the syndrome such as one side of her body being larger or boney structures there may be a study or two to support a link, but in her case, No.

I’m sure you can imagine both my frustration and relief. Letting go of my frustration was easy, after all; this is why we pushed to be seen there.

So overall we learned of some potential side effects Mermaid’s EHK, that LEN & ILVEN can be treated the exact same, that we will continue to watch her hand’s growth over the next year, that she is now the proud owner of EHK, LEN, AND Psoriasis and best of all, that the risk of a wilm’s tumor is no higher than that of any other child.

Up until now we have not treated her skin issues in any way. We have done a few prescription strength creams such as Nystatin and 1% Hydrocortisone but mostly use home remedies to doctor what we can. That has all changed.

Hanging on my fridge is a crazy calendar marking out what medications need applied what day. We are starting a retinoid called Tazorac to be used specifically on her wrist and hand 2-3 times a week, Triamcinolone Ointment for her torso twice daily and Tacrolimus Ointment on her face and neck 5 days on 2 days off.

In one month we will re-evaluate its effects and create a plan from there. It’s a lot, it feels slightly daunting but I am beyond thankful that we are finally beginning a treatment plan and hopefully bringing her some relief. I am also thankful for our amazing insurance that covered the $750 cost of a months medications.

I have no doubt that in a few short weeks we will be reporting about success!

Moving forward we will now be followed @ OHSU for annual check ups and any major changes. For non urgent concerns and medication refills we will still utilize her other dermatologist. It feels like we are finally on a satisfying path.

Stayed tuned for happy updates!

Thanks for walking with us today,

Mermaid’s Mommy

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MollyMadison making smiles!

We have so many talented people in our lives; from top chefs and bakers, to woodworkers and tanners. One special friend is a master at crocheting, you know… that thing with yarn.

Crocheting came around in the 1800’s and has long had a place in history. In the 20’s you saw it being worn in the form of hats & dresses then in the 40’s it became part of the wartime effort, women making items for the troops. In the 50’s & 60’s the art exploded, patterns blew up and you could find items nearly everywhere, if you have never checked out some of the crocheted clothes from the 60’s, you really should do yourself the service and look it up! It seemed to fade off a bit, the world was changing fast and it was kind of left behind, but not for long….

Today you can find blogs, websites, patterns, pretty much anything your heart desires to see and know about the crocheting world right at your fingertips on the world wide web.

There seems to be this age-old argument of what’s easier or better? Crocheting or knitting? I personally have tried both, and I personally can NOT do either one. It’s not my strong suit. Which makes me thankful to have someone in our lives that holds this talent!

In true mermaid fashion we received a gift from our friend Molly in the form of a mermaid tail. From the minute my Mermaid laid eyes on it she was in love. She hugged it and wouldn’t let go! We had to make a deal that at bedtime it was to be put up until the morning. I awoke to not only a Mermaid in my bed, but a mermaid TAIL in my bed! When asked how it got there she told me “It got up and walked here!!!”

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She loves her tail, and I love that it was made by someone special. The other day Mermaid came up to me in the kitchen and said “Mama, I don’t want my scales to go away”, I said good, because they’re yours to keep! her response? “because the mermaid’s made a spell that gave them to me!” and I told her that was right.

Her wanting to keep them is a far cry from a few weeks ago when she told me they were disgusting, so I will embrace it. The gift means so much to us, to have people that embrace her story and help cheer her on in all the smallest of ways warms my heart.

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We thank you for our gift!

Molly is truly talented and I encourage you to take a look at her online shop. There will always be new things added!

https://www.etsy.com/shop/MollyMadisonHOC

Thanks for walking with us today,

Mermaid’s Mommy

Buzz buzz little bee…

After using a product called WartPEEL on Mermaid’s thicker patch of Nevus it proved to be raw and a bit painful. I had been sent some amazing products from a company called Wild Carrot Herbals and amongst them was a salve. I personally had never used one but thought it might be the trick, within 24 hours all the rawness, swelling and discomfort was gone. I was beyond tickled and started reading more about “salves”.

Mermaid has one particularly “itchy” spot on her back so I thought I would take a swing at making my own. I researched all the ingredients that potentially soothe dry or itchy skin, a few recipes and came up with my own concoction.

I’m blessed to have a lot of savvy people in my life so most of these ingredients were gifts from people’s own labor’s of love. I included:

  • Pure raw honey – (given a jar from the neighbors hives)
  • Organic Beeswax – (given a bar made by my parents from their swarm)
  • Shae butter – (given a pure bar from a local Oregon company)
  • Lavendar oil – (a gift from Mermaid’s Grandma)
  • Coconut oil
  • Baking soda

The process in harvesting beeswax is interesting and my Mom had some pretty great pictures – here are a few.

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We gathered our ingredients:

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Started prepping them, if you have ever tried “grating” beeswax, it’s not easy, Mermaid gave up on that part and let Mommy finish.

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Melted part of them together:

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Time consuming, I learned quickly that slow and steady is required. After it was all melted we removed it from the heat and slowly added our other ingredients.

We poured it into a few containers and waited for it to cool. I feared for a minute that it might not bind, it stayed liquid for better than an hour and we continued to mix it, but eventually, it became this nice smooth product.

Given the ingredients I expected it to be slightly oily, which it is but we put some on Mermaid’s arm and it absorbed quickly with less grease left behind than I assumed would be present.

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We added a little garnish and closed up our afternoon project.

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I suppose the real test will be to see how well it really works, I have high hopes!

We are going to ship a container to one of our “itchiest” Nevus babies on the other side of the country and let them be the true judge.

We have plenty of leftover ingredients so I feel a round two of a lotion coming on.

Round one of find a natural aide complete.

Thanks for walking with us today,

Mermaid’s Mommy

 

 

3 years on land…

January 28th 2013, 1:00 pm:

I had just finished eating lunch at work, sat up to clock back in and became very confused. Did I spill my drink? Pee my pants? If it was pee, why wasn’t it stopping? I probably owe a lot of people an apology for my behavior the next hour or so, I was completely irrational, I know this, but that will come later, another day, in a different form, I promise. What matters today, is that moment, is where our journey together really began. I wasn’t due for quite some time so it was all so unexpected. I suppose you were ready, though you took your sweet time joining us here on land. Roughly 36 hours that is. 36 long, painful, life altering hours.

They say the memory of labor fades away, I beg to differ, My experience of bringing you into this world will never be forgotten, but I forgive you. You see, I knew our lives were changed forever the minute you joined us, but I had no idea just how… until now.

I now know that in your 3 short years in life you have changed almost every ounce of my being. For the better.

In your short but eventful life have seen the oceans and stood in the sands from the Washington coast line all the way down to California. You have ventured the strip in Vegas, held a baby tiger, been a local celebrity on the news, met a celebrity, rode the teacups in Disneyland, peered at the land below aside the pilot in a cockpit of a plane, been diagnosed with a rare disease, gazed at the redwoods, rode a gondola for miles in Idaho and laughed at your brothers fear at the top of a ferris wheel. You have been the best little adventure seeker I could ever ask for.

It means the world to me that you can stand by our side throughout our travels, but what you have given me that has changed me, is your heart.

When Derek Jeter played his last game for the New York Yankees, a story and game you would only believe was made for the big screen; and I sat there in disbelief crying, you climbed upon my lap and wiped away my tears. Reminding me how to be compassionate.

When I was ill and crumpled in the kitchen in pain, you rubbed my back and told me it would be ok. Reminding me how to be kind.

When you had a biopsy and were pinned to a table with all the adults fearful of how it would go, you remained calm, still and quiet. Showing a strength none of us could believe. Reminding me how to be brave.

When your slowly falling asleep and ask me to sing twinkle twinkle again in your softest voice as you fade away into dreamland, I am reminded to savor small moments.

When you made a necklace at school that consisted of a string and one tiny bead that you could not wait to show me, then said it was for me; I was reminded of how to be generous.

When you learned a new “trick move” and showed me repeatedly while dancing in our living room to Aerosmith, I was reminded of how to be happy.

Being an adult is hard. We get sucked into our daily routine of mundane tasks and often forget to take time to practice all these things. We focus on the negative, whether we want to or not and become overwhelmed. I am the biggest offender of this, the daily grind often plagues me and before you, probably consumed me. Your small stature but huge spirit has granted me the opportunity to remember on a daily basis to be compassionate, kind, brave, generous, happy and to savor the small moments.

It’s because of you that I rediscovered my love of writing and began using that tool to share our crazy, sad, happy, frustrating, amazing journey with others.

You were dealt a tougher deck than others in your disease, which we are still searching to truly understand and manage and though I know you do not realize it now, it is because of who you have been in these 3 short years that I will forever be compassionate to others with differences, kind to those who join our journey, brave enough to publically share all our emotions and steps on this walk, generous enough to share our knowledge and products, happy for those who do not walk in our shoes and forever savor every small notion we receive along the way.

Today is a special day, for today is the day you made your mark on this world.

My Mermaid, I love you to the deep end of the seas and back.

Happy Birthday.

Mermaid’s Mommy

A fish tale…

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The legends of Mermaids have long been discounted by modern-day society, they exist only in folklore and fairytale’s. Perhaps they never really existed, but maybe, just maybe… there is truth to those stories.

Some believe Mermaid’s are aliens, coming to us through a wormhole; others, that they are a bad omen – set out to lure men of the sea to their death, and then, the most popular are the tales of a half fish-half woman creature sitting upon the rocks and shores brushing her lavish long hair while singing to her God Neptune in angelic, hypnotic voice. These tales claim that Mermaid’s had a kind demeanor and saved many men from an uncertain fate.

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Believer or not, the conundrum of a Mermaid is nothing shy of fascinating.

It is said that a Mermaid’s complexion is pale and their skin is flecked with shimmery scales. Though you may not notice this as they tend to cover themselves with their wonderous hair.

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Mermaids feed on small fish and kelp. I once asked my Mermaid what she ate when she lived in the ocean and her response then and now has always remained the same. “Little fishes!” She is adamant that at no time did she ever eat crab, seahorses or big fish – only “little fishes!”

Coming from the sea Mermaid’s require hydration so their need for water is their biggest weakness. I read once that while in human form they donned webbed hands and feet.

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Aquamarine, known as the “gem of the sea” is spoke of in legends to be tears of Mermaid’s that hold the power to keep sailors safe at sea. Others claim it was the sacred stone of Neptune, washed upon shore as a gift from the God’s.

Mermaid’s have the ability to control basic elements and weather, they can transform into smaller mammals and even fade away becoming invisible. They love to be free but it is said that they grow lonely and have no power of their need for love. Its is believed that this need to be loved is what brings them to the surface. Watching men from afar feeding their curiosity. during shipwrecks and storms they would save men and it is then, that they would fall in love with humans.

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Ok, so maybe the idea of a half Victoria’s secret model – half tuna, lounging on the jetty stalking pirates is a bit far-fetched, but I will tell you this – something that has the ability to cry pricey gemstones and part the seas receives a glimmer of my belief. Let’s face it, I have no intentions of meeting my own uncertain fate for doubting her being.

Fact or fiction the idea of my baby once being a Mermaid has brought light to an otherwise dark subject.

As Mermaid and her lifelong pal go through life maneuvering their oddities of scales and webbed feet, they are bound to face struggles. Perhaps struggles of pain, itching and surgery, or perhaps bigger ones. The need to hide their gifts, feeling different or being teased. Together, we will face those struggles as we are faced with them. For now, if only for a while, I can enjoy my Mermaid embracing her sea life. When she tells me stories about eating “little fishes” and swimming so fast with her tail, I will smile. If she believes her scales will disappear if she doesn’t take a bath or use her special soap – I believe it too.

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I recently had the pleasure of a local photographer,  who I now call friend, take interest in my blog. She generously spent a day with us, a close friend of ours and our little blessings taking pictures. Here’s the ringer – not only did she arrive at the location but brought a second photographer and a wooden sign she had purchased then had designed by another source. Her genuine desire to help raise awareness is beyond appreciated.

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I cried driving home that day. I had to leave rather abruptly as Mermaid needed a nap in the biggest of ways so I never really got a chance to tell everyone what they did for me.

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I choke up as I write this in a happy, humbled way. You see, time has proven that Mermaid’s case is far less severe than it could have been and our journey thus far has been relatively easy. I could stop writing about it and be satisfied with how far we have come, but I have to remember why I started this. I remember how I felt after first learning of her disease and the sense of loneliness. I remember that I longed for someone to tell me it was going to be ok. I can not tell everyone its going to be ok, because the truth is, for some, it might not. I can not think that a cute little blip about a mythical creature will warm your heart, but I can show you, through this encounter that people you would never expect to care, do. For 4 Women to lend their talents, oddities and identities to our purpose, I thank them.

You have assisted in one small step towards teaching the world about nevus owners.

I thank you for seeing our vision and letting these two little girls be portrayed as fierce, powerful Mermaid’s, if only for a day.

So today, Kinna Clark, Geneva Richardson, Coleen Papike-Robbins and Andi Hakanson, you are our honorary Mermaid’s. May you find freedom in the seas!

To see more work by Kinna Clark go to:

Www.geminiIImages.com

Thanks for walking with us today,

Mermaid’s Mommy

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Prognosis Happiness

To date, this is the most important piece I have ever written. Most important because our family can now embrace Mermaids disease with a true diagnosis  and make constructive but cautious decisions about our future with the right information.

We have so much to share you might want to pause here and move somewhere comfortable…

Ready???

This week we not only received the long anticipated biopsy results but got to meet Mermaid’s new dermatologist and I must say, she was a ray of sunshine in our cloudy little nevus world.

The next sentence is my favorite collaboration of word’s I have ever put to print. MERMAID DOES NOT HAVE CANCER. There is always that higher potential of cancerous cells developing in nevus owners but we are officially free & clear at this time. To be fair, we knew that piece a few weeks ago. Our Primary Care Dr. let us know but we wanted the final reading before sharing. Needless to say I slept a smidge better the night we found out.

Here is our official biopsy reading:

-Epidermolytic hyperkeratosis.

Exam demonstrates aconthotic and hyperkeratotic epidermis with focal dyskeratosis. The differential includes linear epidermolytic epidermal nevus and epidermolytic acanthoma.

So what does this mean? Officially, this means that Mermaid has linear epidermal nevus, which occurs in 1 out of 1,000 people. However, the rare subtype of epidermolytic hyperkeratosis only occurs in 1 out of 2/300,000 people worldwide.

There is a grey area, we cannot yet rule out ILVEN.  The biopsy site did not show the specific subtype but Mermaid has had several occurences that I was able to photograph and share with her new dermatologist. She agreed it was inflammation and said it may in fact be an early onset of ILVEN. We will wait and see what the nevus does from here on.

I know not everyone understands what this means so I’m going to break it down a bit more.

Linear epidermal nevus (LEN) is an uncommon skin condition. It usually affects the limbs and torso on one side of the body. The lesions are typically present at birth. LEN is the result of a genetic abnormality. It is not inherited but arises from somatic mutations in cells that occur after conception.

Linear epidermal nevus follows the lines of Blashko, which are invisible on the skin but thought to follow the paths which cells migrate as the skin develops before birth.

LEN can be linked to complications such epidermal nevus syndrome; abnormalities effecting brain, internal organs, eyes or bones. Tumors can also arise within the lesions. They may be harmless and simply need removal or may be a form of skin cancer.

We can happily report that as of this moment Mermaid does not harbour any of said abnormalities. All our tests and check ups thus far have come back clean.

If she does indeed develop ILVEN the potential treatment options and complications change a bit but the two are extremely close in comparison.

We were also told at our visit that Mermaids chances of developing a Wilm’s tumor are very unlikely as she would have already developed some of the other abnormalities effecting the organs. (I wont personally celebrate until her 6th bday!)

Mermaid occasionally gets small lesions on her scalp which we were asked to come in and have swabbed next time they occur. We were also able to discuss the possibility of Mermaids overheating being correlated. This is more common with giant nevus but it may be that Mermaids sweat glands are not working correctly in the area of her nevus. We cannot say definitively this is or is not the cause as there is no way of knowing for sure and we will continue to monitor it.

From the beginning of this journey I have been plagued by the thought of my Mermaid being teased or self-conscious about her “birthmark”. As we have learned more about her disease and gotten to know fellow Nevus owners that fear has only grown. The emotional effects can be devastating for Nevus owners of all kinds.

We have been lucky thus far that Mermaids nevus is mostly unseen by others with the exception of her arm & hand. Mermaid is very protective of her hand and rarely lets me photograph or touch it. At our appointment it was noted that her nevus is starting to come up over her palm. I can pray this doesn’t happen but on the chance it does I was FINALLY able to have that conversation about what treatment looks like in the future.

In the future, our dermatologist offered a form of cauterization in office that can help flatten and smooth the skin. We discussed both the pluses and deltas of co2 with a decision to avoid that route and of course, the talk of removal.

On the chance Mermaid’s nevus continues to thicken on her hand and move over her palm we will need to take action. At school age we will go through with removal. This can be done by our healthcare system here opposed to out of state which we originally thought.

This decision is based not only on a cosmetic and emotional basis but on the grounds of physical irritation it has caused.

I feel like it has been a struggle to get to a place where we understand our path moving forward; but we have arrived.

Our dermatologist is supportive of our trials, we will see her once every 6 months unless needed sooner. If Mermaid inflames on a more chronic basis or develops the spots on her scalp we will return. We will monitor her body temperature and physical discomfort, being conscious of potential tumors. In a few years we will revisit the surgical options and until then, we will continue our journey with LEN.

I know that our recent decision to find new care and push for more solid diagnosis and treatment information will free me from so much fear.

To all you rare and beautiful nevus owners, we hope our struggles to find the right care and options brings you a sense of direction and understanding.

Thank you to everyone for supporting us up to this point.

Thanks for walking with us today,

Mermaid’s Mommy

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