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A Stunning Woman Reveals The Devastating Secret Behind Her Weight Gain

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Vicki Perez first noticed she was gaining weight back in October 2015 – and in less than 12 months she had ballooned from 9st 4lbs to 12st 4lbs.

Her face began to bloat and her feet swelled so large that she couldn’t even wear shoes.

The shocked mum-of-one learnt she had Cushing’s disease, which is caused by high cortisol levels.

But it wasn’t until last January that she found out it was due to a deadly tumour on her pituitary gland.

After two surgeries to have the tumour removed, Vicki has finally began to recover and is sharing her story to raise awareness.

Vicki, who is currently studying to become a dental hygienist in Florida, said: “The gym and fitness has always been my passion.

“I train every day. So I was shocked when I noticed my face was getting puffy and my hands and feet were swelling like water retention.

”They were so swollen I had to wear men’s shoes and my clothes didn’t fit.

“I felt bloated all the time and I didn’t want to leave the house.

“I continued working out at the gym not realising I was causing damage.”

In February 2016, she noticed strange rashes on her hands and body and was rushed to hospital in anaphylactic shock.

Vicki said: “When I saw the rashes I thought it was an allergy but the next day I work up and I couldn’t breathe.”

Despite numerous tests, medics continued to deny there was anything wrong.

The fed-up mum decided to see a Cushing Disease specialist at The University of Alabama.

She said: “I took my MRI and CT scan and they saw the tumour was in my brain.

“My hospital had completely mis-read it.”

After further tests, doctors were able to confirm it was a brain tumour.

She said: “I’m not sure how long I had the tumour. I thought I was going to die.”

After an initial surgery to remove the tumour on the left of her pituitary in June, and a second op to remove a second tumour in July, Vicki’s health began to improve.

She said: “Two days after the first surgery and my feet were normal.

“I was excited, I felt great, I felt amazing but a month later I was back in hospital for the second surgery.

“The recovery was hard, it hurt to move. I had to teach to walk again and how to run again.

“I was angry and I was crying all the time. It messes with your hormones and makes you think you are crazy.”

The road to recovery has been long and after eight months, Vicki still has a way to go.

But now her weight is down to 10st 10lbs and she is able to wear shoes and her normal clothes again.

She said: “It’s a slow process.

“I am not 100% back to normal and any emotional stress can be dangerous for me and cause me to go into shock.

“But I am starting to see improvements and I’m just focusing on my son and school.”

Vicki added: “My son really struggled with seeing me so sick but now I am able to spend time with him, he is so much better and not acting out at school.

“He’s the most important thing, I couldn’t have got through this without him.”

From http://www.dailystar.co.uk/diet-fitness/594013/Gain-weight-bikini-fitness-model-brain-tumour

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Kathleen (irishlass), Pituitary Bio

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golden-oldie

 

Originally from April 30, 2008

 

I am 65 yo, single, and live alone.

I have a pituitary adenoma. December 5, 2007 I had a pituitary resection, transphenoidal. The adenoma was approx 2.9 cm. A recent MRI revealed a good portion of the tumor remains.

I wear a medical alert bracelet for “Adrenal Insufficiency” and take 20 mg hydrocortizone daily, in divided doses.

The biggest problems I deal with is lack of energy, and inability to lose weight. I’m fifty pounds overweight. Has anyone ever been successful at losing weight?

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Stephanie (Stephanie), Pituitary Bio

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The pituitary gland

3 years ago, 2014, I was 43 and very active, running, doing HIIT workouts, volunteering, making and doing stuff, traveling like a maniac.

Then I started getting cysts that were benign but required surgery. One was endometriosis and ovarian, the second, lumbar. Which resulted in my having chronic, severe numbness and nerve pain in my left leg. I attributed the severe weight gain to not exercising.

Then I went to the emergency room for a abscessed cyst in my neck. An ENT did a follow up MRI and found a cyst on the pituitary gland late 2015, but I had to move to Fairbanks. early 2016.

Finally, I have a team of an Endocrinologist specializing in Cushing’s and a Neurosurgeon at Swedish in Seattle. I have to travel but it’s worth it because I’m being treated for something.

I had the first transphenoidal surgery in Aug 2016 that removed the bulk of the macroadema, but there was still elevated cortisol and they found some cyst left. Just had the second surgery January 2017 and will be going to post-op appointment soon.

I still have symptoms of Cushing’s Disease, don’t know yet if I actually have elevated cortisol, but I left the hospital with no change in cortisol from admittance to discharge. I looked at the scale today and despite watching my eating have gained weight- I have gained 60 lbs in 3 years! I still have the severe, chronic nerve pain so am on meds, go to p/t and a pain management specialist.

Have had hypothyroidism and take steroids. I go through cycles of good days but mostly bad with sleeping and bathroom problems and unhappy thinking.

I rarely leave the house anymore. I look and feel ugly and disabled – I just got a handicapped placard. I want to volunteer, travel, go outside but then when I try, I get sick and can’t. So I’m trying to find ways to be active at home or on my own time schedule. I do fiber arts at home but for my own sanity- it’s not good enough to sell but I have enough stuff to sell! I’m also an introvert with a social phobia, I don’t have any extended family, and I’m new to this area so have not made any friends! So this is the great challenge of my life, where all my roads have led me to, to which my strength and knowledge must apply and conquer.

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Kathleen (ForegoneLegacy), Pituitary Bio

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golden-oldie

 

Originally posted November 20, 2008

Hi, my name is Kathleen. I’m 24 years old and live in southern pa.

I had my two pituitary tumors removed 8/22/08 and I’m still not feeling any better really.

Over the last decade I have been diagnosed with cushings, Lyme, lupus, endometriosis, sinus
tachycardia, fibromyalgia, arthritis, asthma, the list seems to go on and on.

And I guess I had it in my head that once I had this surgery that I would magically get better and move on with my life – go to college, get an apartment, get my license, and hopefully lose all the weight so maybe one day I could be confident enough to start dating again.

Its been nearly 3 months and I seem to be losing hope. My neurosurgeon says that the pathology reports showed “essentially” nothing (still not sure what that means) and that he doesn’t need to see me again.

The ENT who did the surgery was wonderful but can’t really help with anything but making my
nose/sinuses/gums ok. 🙂 And endocrinologists – I have been seeing them for ten years, and never met one whom I liked or who was helpful. Right now I’m getting a full cardio workup to try to fix my weird rhythm.

All of this is being done at Georgetown in D.C, but I’ve been all over the east coast. I don’t know, I guess I hoped maybe you’d have some insight or hopefulness to latch on – cause I put all my eggs in this basket and I feel like I’m about to drop the basket.

Thanks for listening,
Kathleen

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Kandis, Pituitary Bio

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golden-oldie

 

Last Updated December 6, 2008

My diagnosis was Pituitary Cushing’s Disease. Had transphenoidal that did not work and ended up having a bilateral adrenalectomy.

Here is a link to my website that has my story and several pictures. I welcome any questions/comments/conversations!

Update November 7, 2007

I just want to update my bio to say that the address of my website has changed. The address of the new website that I have that contains my story and pics (and some new pics) is now:

http://www.KandisMcCartney.fasthoster.info/index.html

Update December 2008

When I finished writing this story over a year ago, I hoped that I wouldn’t have to do any additions, at least not for awhile. However, after marrying the man of dreams in August 2008, the man who stuck by my side through all of this, I started developing some frequent headaches. Nothing horrible, but growing ever more persistent. I had been slowly growing a deeper and deeper tan, so much so that I couldn’t go out into the sun for more than a few minutes without a high SPF sunblock or my skin would turn REALLY dark. We went to the Dominican Republic for our honeymoon, and people thought I was a native I was so dark by the time we left. I always knew that there was the possibility of me developing Nelson’s Syndrome, but I always hoped it wouldn’t happen. I pretty much knew going into my MRI at the end of September that my tumor had grown, especially after finding out that my ACTH levels had doubled in a matter of months. Sure enough, when the results of my MRI came back, we were finally able to see the little booger that had been evasive up until now. My adenoma was clearly visible at approximately 8mm located on what was left of my pituitary gland. My new endocrinologist (my former doctor went into research for awhile) along with my amazingly talented neurosurgeon, as well as the radiologists agreed that I should give a second transphenoidal surgery a try. They felt that with my age, desire to have children, and current condition, it was the best choice for me. The neurosurgeon felt he would have a good chance for success this time, especially since the tumor was now visible. He said that as long as when they got up in there and there was a clear difference between what was normal tissue and what was tumor, he thought it would be very likely the surgery would work and he would be able to remove the tumor. I had grown to really trust my neurosurgeon and believed that this was indeed the right decision for me.

Everything happened pretty quickly, and I was in the hospital awaiting surgery on the morning of October 15, 2008. There was a delay in the start time, as the previous surgery had taken longer than expected and we didn’t have a room. They finally arranged for another room, and I was wheeled on in to have my surgery. I awoke in the recovery room to find my husband waiting there for me to open my eyes. I knew immediately, I just had this feeling that was different from my first transphenoidal, that everything had been successful. I was thoroughly amazed at how well I could breathe this time around! I wasn’t stuffy at all the way I had been the first time around. I didn’t even have to go to ICU, I went straight to my private room. The neurosurgeons came around the following morning and said that the surgery went remarkably well and I handled it like a champ. They said it didn’t even look like I had had surgery. I told them that it really didn’t feel like I had. They said that because I already had this done before, they used the same pathway, through my nose, and it wasn’t near as intense since the hole was already there. Since I had the same two surgeons both times, they knew already how they had done the first one, so they were familiar with my nose and head. I was up and walking around and everyone – doctors, surgeons, nurses, physical therapists were amazed. Everyone could see that I was ready to go home. I was released early that evening after only a little over 24 hours since my surgery.

The recovery at home was very easy, I was only off work for a few days, just to gain my strength back and make sure everything was indeed okay. My post-op bloodwork showed a significant drop in ACTH levels indicating that the surgery was indeed successful. My post-op MRI looked great as well, no signs of tumor. Of course, we can’t be 100% sure that the tumor is completely gone, and that it won’t grow back, but that is what we will hope for. In the meantime, I am so happy, healthy, and grateful to be alive and enjoying life. I will not live each day worrying about what could happen, I’d rather focus on everything good I have right now. …and I’d say, that’s a lot!

I’d like to send my deepest thanks and appreciation to the absolutely wonderful Pituitary Team at Johns Hopkins Hospital. They are some of the most amazingly talented, intelligent, and kind doctors that one could ever wish for. I wouldn’t be sitting here today so healthy and happy without them. I’d like to send special thanks to my endocrinologist, Dr. Salvatori, who always takes such good care of me, and my incredible neurosurgeon, Dr. Olivi, who I trust with my life! You are both my heroes.

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Matthew C, Pituitary Bio

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pituitary-location
Hello,
I am retired from the United States Army and currently work as a dispatcher for the Blue Springs School District. A few years ago I started to have extreme anxiety. Of course, I went to a psychiatrist and was prescribed an anti-depressants. After a few months the anxiety would resolve. Unfortunately, over the years it would come and go and last for many months each time.

During the summer of 2015, the anxiety returned with a vengeance. I went to a new psychiatrist and was again prescribed an anti-depressant. However, this time it did not work. So, we went through a number of them without success. I researched to see what physical manifestation may be making me feel the gut wrenching anxiety and insomnia. I discovered the wonderful hormone called – YES YOU GUESSED IT – cortisol.

I then learned that cortisol came from the small, but powerful adrenal glands. That lead me to Cushing’s Syndrome/Disease. However, every site that I went to said that Cushing’s was very rear and effected women more than men. After, many more months of suffering and failing at the anti-depressant experiment, I went to my primary doctor and requested a blood test to determine my cortisol levels. The test indicated I did have high morning plasma cortisol.

My doctor referred me to an endocrinologist. I made a crucial mistake when I went to see him. He asked me my history and I told him about the severe anxiety. That planted a seed in his brain that I was just suffering from a psychiatric disorder. Nevertheless, he did order the test (Plasma cortisol, saliva cortisol and 24-hour urine free cortisol). All the test came back with higher than normal cortisol, but he kept saying that I was having “false positives.”

This went on for a number of months and then he basically fired me as a patient. So, I go back to my primary doctor and he refers me to my second endocrinologist. Guess what the story turned out to go the same way. I was fired again as a patient.

Before I go on let me add a little to the story: I do not have any of the physical signs of high cortisol. Basically, I suffer from anxiety, insomnia, brain fog, cognitive impairment and constipation. So, in their defense I don’t look the part of a person suffering from Cushing’s.

My next attempt was with the Veterans Administration. My endocrinologist there did the same test and was convinced something was wrong. She ordered a Inferior Petrosal Sinus Sampling. Finally, a test that did confirm that I had Cushing’s Disease.

The surgery to remove the tumor was accomplished on 9 August, 2016. However, the surgery failed. The worst part is that my current endocrinologist feels that my test results are “false positives.” I must say the entire process has been frustrating at best.

I do have a radical plan in place with a endocrinologist overseas who has agreed to do the surgery that will cure my Cushing’s Disease once and for all. I call this the final solution. Yes, this is extreme but my symptoms are getting worse and I don’t feel like playing the game anymore.

In addition, my symptoms are getting worse as my blood pressure is getting higher and higher.

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Doc Karen, Pituitary and BLA Bio

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Karen’s Story

Life was good! In fact, life was great! I was married to the love of my life. We had a beautiful little girl. My husband and I had both earned our graduate degrees. I earned my Doctorate in Clinical Psychology and was growing my clinical practice. I loved my work!

In October, 2006, my life was turned upside down when I gained 30 pounds in 30 days! I knew this was not normal at all. I sought answers but my doctor kept insisting that I wasn’t eating the right foods, that I wasn’t exercising hard enough, and finally that it was genetic. However, I was always a thin person, I ate pretty healthy foods, and I was pretty active. Red flags became even greater when my physician put me on prescription weight loss drugs and I STILL gained another 30 pounds. I knew my body and I knew something was wrong but I had no one to validate what was going on.

In January, 2010, to my surprise, I learned that I was miraculously pregnant with our second daughter. I was so sick during that pregnancy and,  again, my doctors couldn’t figure out why. My OBGYN was very supportive, yet so concerned. Her solution was to put me on bed rest. I became so ill that she told me that “my only job was to sit still and wait to have a baby”. I did give birth to a healthy baby girl four weeks early. Little did I know, then, how much of a miracle she was.

During the latter part of my pregnancy, while flipping through channels on television, I came across a Cushing’s episode on the health TV show, “Mystery Diagnosis”.

 

 

I knew right away that this diagnosis fit everything I had been experiencing: years of weird and unexplained symptoms, gaining 150 pounds for no reason, an onset of diabetes, high blood pressure, and an overall sense of doom.

You see, my friends and family witnessed me go from a vibrant young Clinical Psychologist in practice, to someone whose health deteriorated due to the symptoms of Cushing’s, as I tried for many years to get answers from professionals. As I continued to eat a healthy, 1000 calorie per day diet, engage in exercise with multiple personal trainers, and follow through with referrals to consult with dietitians; I continued to gain weight at a rate of 5 pounds per week and experience rapidly declining health. Finally, after watching that Cushing’s episode of Mystery Diagnosis, I found my answer! Ultimately, I sought the expertise of and treatment from a team of experts at the Seattle Pituitary Center in Seattle, WA. I had brain surgery in Seattle on November 16th, 2011. I want to tell you how I found the people who helped save my life…

On June 9, 2011, I went to my first MAGIC conference. I had never heard of them but someone on one of the online support groups told me about it.  At that time, I was working but was very, very sick. We suspected at that time that I had been sick for years! My local endocrinologist was far from a Cushing’s expert. After watching the Cushing’s episode of Mystery Diagnosis, I told the same endocrinologist who had misdiagnosed me for years that I had found my answer. He swore that there was “literally no possible way that I had Cushing’s Disease!” He stated that my “hump wasn’t big enough”, “my stretch marks were not purple enough” and that “Cushing’s patients do not have children!” I told him that I was NOT leaving his office until he started testing me. He finally caved in. To his surprise, I was getting abnormal labs back.

At that time, there was evidence of a pit tumor but it wasn’t showing up on an MRI. So, I had my IPSS scheduled. An IPSS stands for Inferior Petrosal Sinus Sampling. It is done because 60 % of Cushing’s based pituitary tumors are so small that they do not show up on an MRI. Non Cushing’s experts do not know this so they often blow patients off, even after the labs show a high level of ACTH in the brain through blood work. An overproduction of the hormone ACTH from the pituitary communicates to the adrenal glands to overproduce cortisol. Well, the IPSS procedure is where they put catheters up through your groin through your body up into your head to draw samples to basically see which side of your pituitary the extra hormone is coming from, thus indicating where the tumor is. U of C is the only place in IL that does it.

So, back to the MAGIC convention; my husband and I went to this conference looking for answers. We were so confused and scared!  Everyone, and I mean everyone, welcomed us with opened arms like we were family! There were brilliant presenters there, including an endocrinologist named Dr. William Ludlam. At that time, he was the director at the Seattle Pituitary Center in Seattle, WA. He is a true Cushing’s expert. Since then, he left in January, 2012 to have a significant impact toward the contribution of research of those impacted by Cushing’s Syndrome. His position was taken over by another brilliant endocrinologist, Dr. Frances Broyles.

I was scheduled to get an IPSS at U of C on June 28th, 2011 to locate the tumor. Two days after the IPSS, I began having spontaneous blackouts and ended up in the hospital for 6 days. The docs out here had no clue what was happening and I was having between 4-7 blackouts a day! My life was in danger and they were not helping me! We don’t know why, but the IPSS triggered something! But, no one wanted to be accountable so they told me the passing out, which I was not doing before, was all in my head being triggered by psychological issues. They did run many tests. But, they were all the wrong tests. I say all the time; it’s like going into Subway and ordering a turkey sandwich and giving them money and getting a tuna sandwich. You would be mad! What if they told you, “We gave you a sandwich!” Even if they were to give you a dozen sandwiches; if it wasn’t turkey, it wouldn’t be the right one. This is how I feel about these tests that they ran and said were all “normal”. The doctors kept telling us that they ran all of these tests so they could cover themselves. Yet, they were not looking at the right things, even though, I (the patient) kept telling them that this was an endocrine issue and had something to do with my tumor! Well, guess how good God is?!!!!

You see, Dr. Ludlam had given me his business card at the conference, which took place two weeks prior to the IPSS. I put it away for a while. But, something kept telling me to pull the card out and contact him. I am crying just thinking about it, Lord!

So, prior to my IPSS, I wrote Dr. Ludlam an e mail asking him some questions. At that time, he told me to send him ALL of my records including labs. I sent him 80 pages of records that day.  He called me back stating that he concurred with all of the evidence that I definitely have Cushing’s Disease from a pituitary source. He asked me what I planned to do and I told him that I was having the IPSS procedure done in a few days at the University of Chicago. He told me once I got my results to contact him.

Fast forward, I ended up in the hospital with these blackouts after my IPSS. The doctors, including MY local endocrinologist told me there was no medical evidence for my blackouts. In fact, he told the entire treatment team that he even doubted if I even had a tumor! However, this is the same man who referred me for the IPSS in the first place! I was literally dying and no one was helping me! We reached out to Dr. Ludlam in Seattle and told him of the situation. He told me he knew exactly what was going on. For some reason, there was a change in my brain tumor activity that happened after my IPSS. No one, to this day, has been able to answer the question as to whether the IPSS caused the change in tumor activity. The tumor, for some reason, began shutting itself on and off. When it would shut off, my cortisol would drop and would put me in a state of adrenal insufficiency, causing these blackouts!

Dr. Ludlam said as soon as we were discharged, we needed to fly out to Seattle so that he could help me! The hospital discharged me in worse condition then when I came in. I had a blackout an hour after discharge! But get this…The DAY the hospital sent me home saying that I did not have a pit tumor, my IPSS results were waiting for me! EVIDENCE OF TUMOR ON THE LEFT SIDE OF MY PITUITARY GLAND!!!

Two days later, Craig and I were on a plane to Seattle. I had never in my life been to Seattle, nor did I ever think I would go. We saw the man that God used to save my life, Dr. William Ludlam, the same man who we had met at the MAGIC conference for the first time one month prior! He put me on a combo of medications that would pull me out of crisis. Within one month, my blackouts had almost completely stopped! Unfortunately, we knew this was a temporary fix! He was treating me to carry me over to surgery. You see, his neurosurgeon, Dr. Marc Mayberg was just as amazing. He is one of the top neurosurgeons in the US! Statistically, he has one of the highest success rates!

The problem was that our insurance refused to pay for surgery with an expert outside of IL, stating that I could have surgery anywhere in IL! Most people don’t know that pituitary surgeries are very complicated and need the expertise of a “high volume center” which is where they do at least 50 of these surgeries per year. Dr. Mayberg has performed over 5,000 of these surgeries!  By this time, we had learned that we need to fight for the best care! It was what would give me the best chance at life! We thought I would have to wait until January when our insurance would change, to see if I could get the surgery I so desperately needed! I was holding on by a thread!

We began appealing our insurance. At the time the MAGIC foundation had an insurance specialist who was allowed to help us fight our insurance. Her name is Melissa Callahan and she took it upon herself to fight for us as our patient advocate. It was a long and hard battle! But…we finally WON!!!! On November 16th, 2011, Dr. Marc Mayberg found that hidden tumor on the left side of my pituitary gland! He removed the tumor along with 50% of my pituitary gland.

Recovery was a difficult process. They say that it takes about one full year to recover after pituitary surgery for Cushing’s. I was grateful to be in remission, nonetheless. However, about one year after my brain surgery, the Cushing’s symptoms returned. After seven more months of testing that confirmed a recurrence of the Cushing’s, I was cleared for a more aggressive surgery. This time, I had both of my adrenal glands removed as a last resort. By then, we had learned that I had hyperplasia, which is an explosion of tumor cells in my pituitary. It only takes one active cell to cause Cushing’s. Therefore, I could have potentially had several more brain surgeries and the disease would have kept coming back over and over.

As a last resort, my adrenal glands were removed so that no matter how much these cells try to cause my adrenals to produce excessive amounts of cortisol; the glands are not there to receive the message. As a result, I am Adrenally Insufficient for life, which means that my body cannot produce the life sustaining hormone, cortisol, at all. I had my Bilateral Adrenalectomy by world renowned BLA surgeon, Dr. Manfred Chiang, in Wisconsin on August 21st, 2013. I traded Cushing’s Disease for Addison’s Disease, one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make in my life. However, I knew that I would die with Cushing’s. Recovery from my last surgery was difficult and involved weaning down to a maintenance dose of steroid to replace my cortisol. Now, on a maintenance dose; I still have to take extra cortisol during times of physical or emotional stress to prevent my body from going into shock.

I promised a long time ago that I would pay it forward…give back because so much has been given to me. This is why I have committed my life to supporting the Cushing’s community. I post videos on YouTube as a way of increasing awareness. My channel can be found at http://www.YouTube.com/drnkarenthames

Additionally, I am working on a Cushing’s documentary. Please like us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Hug.A.Cushie

Thank you for taking the time to read my story!

Karen has made 2 videos about her experiences with Cushing’s:

 

and

Doc Karen will be our guest in an interview on BlogTalk Radio  Friday December 2 at 11:00 AM eastern.  The Call-In number for questions or comments is (323) 642-1665 .

The archived interview will be available through iTunes Podcasts (Cushie Chats) or BlogTalkRadio.  While you’re waiting, there are currently 90 other past interviews to listen to!

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