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Posts tagged ‘cancer’


Advent is the beginning of the end – the end of all we so long to see end and all we long to see begin – Jon Bloom

You are working in our waiting – Aaron Keyes

Lots of life is minding the middle place – Ashley Abercrombie


If you heard irrational screaming within five miles of our home about a month ago, let me reassure you:

No one died.

We were just watching the end of Season 3 of Anne with an E.

It took us all by surprise, and yet, of course – not at all. The books are nearly a hundred years old now, and its clear from the beginning of both book and Netflix series which particular story arc would be somehow resolved.

Here’s a hint: Anne’s last name does not stay Shirley.

The screaming was from our oldest. She’s always had a soft spot for boys – fictional or real – who themselves have soft spots for feisty, smart girls that the rest of the world doesn’t understand.

But while she was happy with the ending of Anne with an E, she was less-than-thrilled the next day to find out it was the



The show claimed they’d written all they could with the material, and of course, all three Meredith girls vehemently debated that point,

because there are eight books, people.


And yes, at least three of those books are about the next generation;

book seven is mostly about the adventures of the many Blythe children

(oops, spoilers! – except you’ve had about a hundred years advance notice with which to figure that out)

spend the majority of their time

with the family next door.

Who are…

Wait for it…

The Merediths.


Go check it out.




Hence our personal attachment to the storyline.

In those eight books, it takes Gilbert over ten years and two proposals to win Anne over as an intellectual rival, friend, co-teacher, and eventual wife,

so to resolve that relational storyline by the time Anne turned sixteen in Anne with an E,

the series had to depart from the book’s canon fairly dramatically.

And while some might object that Lucy Maud Montgomery dragged the tension on for too long,

there are obvious internal reasons for the delay,

mostly around the psychological trauma of Anne’s orphan and foster-kid experience,

as well as the gentle benefits of waiting;

over the course of many pages we meet many an entertaining character

and learn,



So, while Anne with an E was an entertaining ride – particularly this last season – the takeaway for our story-writing teenager was a deep and passionate resolve that

They resolved that too soon, Mom.


A few months ago I was purging my closet and found a journal from the spring of 1998.

At the time, angsty melodramatic teenage WB shows were allllll the rage, and not only with me and my handful of super-emotional teenage girl friends:

Even some of the guys I played (correction: more like hung-out-with-while-they-played) Nintendo 64’s 007 watched Dawson’s Creek.


Can you even?

But as I glanced through that journal, the thing that stood out to me was that

tension didn’t bother me so much back then.

Somehow the gap between the things-I-wished-for-but-didn’t-see

felt fuller,

deeper, and

more satisfying

as an 18 year old.

It might have been because I was living it more acutely.

The things I wanted resolved in my life back then –

a job,








a home –

weren’t going to resolve any time soon,

Because they couldn’t.

And while us adults are quick to point out the gaps in teenage brain development, logic,

and ability to be rational,

(because those gaps are very, very real)

sometimes we forget

the particular wisdom they also possess,

because they are living between two worlds

and we are more firmly encamped in just one.

I’m seeing that through a microscope now,

as the plaque of my heart gets dug up

by each of the hills and valleys my kids walk through.

As my oldest said last week,

I know everyone keeps saying that I’m only fourteen, but this is the oldest I’ve ever been and you’re telling me I’m only half way to beginning to understand the world?

The waiting is exhausting.

She’s right.

The waiting is exhausting –

But it makes us who we are.

Several years ago when life went sideways,

we sought out advice from someone who’s known us since we first started dating.

And for awhile he didn’t say anything in response to our painful story.


Well, one thing is clear. You guys are resolvers.

What does that even mean? I laughed in response.

Well, in conflict, there are avoiders and there are resolvers. You guys are resolvers. You are driven to fix it. Get it over with. Resolve.

There were another few moments of silence, and then:

That’s a really great trait to have.

It doesn’t feel like it, I told him.

I remember telling Noelle what he’d said when we got home, and in her other-worldly sense of wisdom, she just paused, lifted an eyebrow, and said,

You’re a story-teller, Mom. You don’t like leaving things unresolved.

Even in the stories you’re writing, you hate ratcheting up the tension on your characters. You know it will hurt them. I find that hard too.

– So what do I do? I asked, unsure of where she was going.

Well, it’s like we’re living at

the one and a half hour mark

of a movie,

and its taking more

than a few scenes to resolve,

and that’s scary.

She was right, of course.

– It will resolve one day, Mom. You know that, don’t you?

Either the situation will improve

or you won’t care about it as much,

or … both.

A few years later, the situation hasn’t improved so much,

But there is a peace that pervades our home

that I didn’t see coming.

It’s like we’ve learned how to be okay in the tension.

Last week I caught up with someone who has known me since, well, forever.

It’s awkwardly awesome to have those kinds of people in our lives.

The benefit is that they’ve known you forever

and not gone anywhere.

The downside is that they’ve known you forever,

so there’s not much you can hide.

And I’m not sure if you can have a relationship like that without a struggle or two.

But, as the conversation went to a deeper place than usual, and I was invited in to something difficult and painful,

I was surprised at the fierceness of protection I felt for this person.

It was a compassion that wouldn’t have been possible without pain.

Some of the pain was on their side, and some on mine.

Some of it came long ago, and some more recently.

All of it kept doing its work:

edging off the parts of our


minds, and


that were getting in the way

of who we are supposed to be.

And it made me realize that,

while we long for the right circumstances

the Disney endings –

let’s face it;

in the face of right circumstances,

most of us become the worst version of ourselves.

The uncomfortable reality

is that the thing we eagerly avoid,


minimize, or

frantically try to resolve,

(that’s my old go-to)

might actually be our best friend:



I saw this recently in a sensitive situation with someone who really matters to me.

The circumstances were awkward and the stakes were high.

And the thing about tension is,

if it gets to be too much,

we can snap.

For a few days, I contemplated the risk involved.

Fight, flight, or freeze?

In the end, I saw there was another option:

Embracing the tension.

Look, I get it.

Being known is scary.

There’s always the possibility that revealing yourself as you really are will end in rejection.

And it’s one thing to be rejected for a projection of yourself, or just a layer of who you are.

You can always tell yourself,

if they really knew me…

But when they really do know you and still walk away, that leaves a mark that’s hard to shake.

I should know.

But something about this high stakes scenario caused me to consider that there might also be

risks to retreating.

In fact, the losses of retreat might be more confusing and harder to recover from than outright rejection,

because you don’t really know

what would have happened

had you just been brave.

On the flip side of that scary moment, I can tell you that embracing the tension is sometimes very, very worth it.

It’s what I told my girls yesterday as I shared some of the things I wrote about in that 1998 journal

and empathized with them

that when we’re in it,

tension seems unbearable.

But it’s often exactly what we need.

Sometimes its working behind the scenes, crafting something that’s not ready to be revealed just yet.

Something that we aren’t ready to see just yet.

A friend of mine summarized this best a little over two years ago.

She had begged for resolution in something that really should be resolved.

And yet she had to wait.

The wait was excruciating.

But just when we thought it wouldn’t turn,

something happened that no one saw coming.

And it was so much better than getting that premature resolution she so longed for.

I see this sometimes at work.

First time moms are often especially eager to be over with the waiting of pregnancy

that they sometimes try and bring on labour itself

a little earlier than their due date

so the angst of growing more uncomfortable is resolved.

The problem is, this often happens when their babies are right on the line of maturity.

Truly premature babies tend to come out with challenges that they often know they need to fight against.

The magnitude of the gap between where they’re at and where they’re supposed to be

is the very thing that drives them

to make up for what they’re lacking.

It’s the babies right on the borderline

that, if born slightly too early,

tend not to do so well.

And if I think about it, it’s the same thing I see in my oldest.

If you tell her something might happen, it drives her crazy.

If you say its impossible,

she puts her shoulders back, narrows her eyes, and says,

Challenge. Accepted.

And, as one who’s known her forever,

Good luck to those who try to get in her way when she’s in that place of resolve.


its often the very tension we dread


drives the resolution we long for.

My girls are learning to embrace this.


But I’m staying in it with them,

not only because this is a season where we celebrate a Saviour Who chose to walk with us in our messes

instead of prematurely resolving them,

but because I know all too well

that it’s often the drive to resolve too quickly

that leads to our worst decisions.

I wish I’d known that a few years ago.

I wish I’d known that the


-while exquisitely painful-

can be more productive

than trying to rush a resolution.

But, I’m not the first to make that mistake.

Take the disciples, for example.

Once they figured out who their Master was, they began to get used to the idea that

the Resolver-of-all-the-things-they-considered-bad-in-their-lives

(hint: it was mostly circumstances)

would massage out the tension

on a grand scale

and set up a kingdom of peace and joy for all.

They weren’t wrong,

But they got the timing wrong.

And in hoping to rush the resolution of their circumstances,

they failed to see the need

for their Master to work through the broken circumstances

and resolve their character.

I think this might be why so many New Years Resolutions fail.

Too often, we center them on a desire for utopia,


instead of letting our current dystopia

make us into the full-grown Image-bearers

we were always intended to be.

It’s only when we make it there that we’ll be ready to receive the kingdom we long for.

For the last eleven years,

I’ve gotten to wrestle with this tension in a microcosm.

Every three to six months or so,

my husband and I navigate crazy traffic

to see a doctor whose specialty

is analyzing

whether my blood system

is still trying to kill me.

And for these last five years or so,

including that surprisingly sunny day only a few weeks ago,

the answer has been

that I’m incredibly close to remission

but still not quite there.

It can be maddening, that lack of resolve.

But its what I’ve been given.

And I think it might be so I can learn to embrace that there’s beauty in the

‘steady on, same, same’

current plan of my hematologist

whose expertise has evaluated the potential outcomes of change

and concluded that

this current course is best

even though there’s still tension.

And every day that I – get to – take those little white pills

I also remember

there is one resolution to this tension that I really don’t want.

At least, not yet.

So while many of us will rush into 2020 with big plans and lofty goals,

and visions of a future far better than the past,

or hunger for an ease and comfort

that we think will fulfill us,

I wonder if any of you are longing for a resolution

that can be kept no matter what’s coming.

I think it might look something like this.

I resolve

to be resolved

by all the things that won’t resolve

Until the Resolver of the most unresolvable gap in history

returns and makes all things

more right than they ever have been.

And until then,

I resolve to trust

that He knows what He’s doing

with all the pieces that have been left as they currently are

Even if I don’t like it

And it doesn’t feel good.

I wasn’t called to feel good.

I was called to look like Him.

So friends:

For those of you whose hearts ache this Christmas season,

I hear you.

I am with you.

It’s okay to ache.

It’s okay to want things to be different than they are.

There is such a thing as a holy discontentment,

but there is also such a thing as a holy


in which we not only long for the King to return,

but we also learn to trust

His bizarre-to-our-eyes plan

of ratcheting up the tension.

We really are in the pains of childbirth until now.

And it’s okay that we feel a bit anxious about it.

But on the day all that we are waiting for to be revealed,

I’m pretty sure we won’t remember a moment of the angst.

So as we sit here

in the one and a half hour mark

and learn to tell ourselves

that it’s okay that it seems to be too tense for too long,

I hope that you, like me,

are starting to see,


not only will the ending be worth it,

but it’s also best not to rush it.


So, this is Christmas. – John Lennon

Its the most wonderful weekend of the year.

No, seriously. Forget your fowl and your favors and your fragrant festive evergreens. You can have your soirees, your shopping malls and your savory sweets.

Even those joyous reunions of relatives from near and far on Christmas Day – which has traditionally been my favorite thing – can’t beat this weekend for me.

Call me a sentimentalist.

Call me a stage momma.

Call me a minivan-driving (yes, it’s true!), behind-the-scenes cheering, every-cliche-you’ve-never-hoped-to-be soccer/hockey/school-scheduled thirty-something crazy lady whose entire life revolves around her children.

I won’t care.

I must be all of those things, or the Kids Choir Production wouldn’t be my favorite part of Christmas.

Which is why I was more than just a little disturbed when the cold I thought was finally finished came storming back in the wee hours of Friday morning.

(Christmas colds – now truly they are the gift that keeps on giving.)

Saturday evening I bundled up my miniature minstrels and tiny-shepherds-with-Katniss-braids in their winter coats and gloves and boots and said goodbye as they went off to perform and I went back to bed.

It was tragic.

It was lonely.

It was the best thing I could have done.

See, what the perpetually healthy don’t know – and what most of us fail to acknowledge – is that being sick is our body’s way

of slowing down

and taking notice

of the things that need healing.

Just as cars sputter when in need of some work, our physical tents demand attention when




or sometimes just


So in those hours of

coughing and

sputtering and

surrendering to the fog that is a sinus headache,

my mind stilled enough to let me



turn things over

and reflect on my love-hate relationship with this season.

I asked a dear friend about this today.

Why do I find this time of year so hard?

Her answer was filled with such clarity and composure that, even as her words came out, I felt my heart letting go of some things I didn’t even know were there.

It’s not just the enforced busyness.

It’s not the lure of materialism.

It’s not even my strong dislike of the pressure to keep up with the Janzens

in the latest and greatest

nine-year-old-girl toy

or cutest new family tradition.

It’s deeper than that.


I love my family.


I have one of the good ones, you know?

They are beautiful, funny, caring people.

They know how to have fun and be kind. They are thoughtful and deep, careful and reflective, respectful and honest.

But when I’m with them, I can become something I no longer am.

Let me explain.

Christmas is that time of year where, in some capacity at least, each of us is encouraged to go back to something.

Back home.

Back to the people who raised us.

Back to the people we grew up with.

Back to the people we used to know.

Back to the things we used to do.

And in going back, we think we will find something we’ve lost in this big, scary world of change and the growing knowledge of our own adult ineptitude.

We think we’ll find grace.

We think we’ll find hope.

We think we’ll find some section of the happy parts of our childhood and reclaim that person we used to be that saw the whole world ahead of them and limitless possibilities of all that could happen to them

and we could be




And sometimes that happens.

When it does, well… That’s what all the movies are about.

But the moments it doesn’t happen – and maybe its at your office Christmas party, or your cookie-baking day with your best friend or your shopping trip with your long-lost Aunt Nellie – those moments leave me confused.


A little betrayed.

And I ask myself if I remembered it wrong.

But some of the things I lost in adulthood … I lost them on purpose.

There’s so much of me that I never want to see again.

I never want to be that again.

I never want to do that thing again.

I never want to be that person who was capable of such meanness or impulsiveness or harshness or unforgiveness. I don’t want that. Ever. Again.

And the best part?






Some of you know exactly what I’m talking about. Some of you have experienced a radical life change in a cataclysmic moment, or even just a series of painful-but-profitable tweaks and snips and prunes that have softened some of your rougher edges and carved beautiful patterns in some of your uglier bits.

Some of you have also had the incomparable beauty of a vibrant and vulnerable community

that may or may not share your DNA

to whom you’ve chosen to attach yourself.

And, if they’re anything like mine,

they’ve become a witness

to everything that is new in you.

And while our families of origin

know how we started

and love us anyways,

it is our spiritual families who see everything we are becoming and call it beautiful.

Three Christmases ago, some of these gathered around our kitchen island and ate pizza as our kids watched a movie in the living room. It was one of those nights that we were all so busy and a little bit broken that for a few minutes there was only eating, no talking. And then they caught sight of my recent Homesense find –

A slightly-broken, easily mended sign that now hangs in our front hallway:

A friend is one

that knows you as you are

understands where you’ve been

accepts what you have

and still allows you to grow.

A smile spread across their face.

That. Is. Awesome.

It’s fitting they were the ones to notice, since I picked it because of

who they were and

all they were already teaching me to be.

And while I had not a fraction of a clue what those words actually meant when I bought it,

I was soon about to learn.

And it was hard.

And ugly.

And one of the most uncomfortable experiences I’ve ever had.

And yet,

and yet,

I finally get it.

Friends –

What if we could do that for each other?

What if we went into Christmas

ignoring the shoulds and the coulds and the maybes and the wish I coulds and the malls and the media and every single thing that called us away from

giving other people space enough to grow?



what happens in families

– even the very best, kindest, and most connected ones –

is that we organize ourselves

around who we used to be

and what we used to do together

and – hey, remember when you did this crazy thing? –

that we slip into becoming

storehouses for all of each other’s worst moments

and not

cheerleaders for the best moments

that might

still be yet to come.

Friends –

What I’m suggesting isn’t easy.

It’s living in upside-down land.

It violates all of our natural tendencies

to reach out across the divide

– especially if we have become very different people with very different lives –

and desperately try to connect

to that piece of the other that we


had a part of,

or hope we still have in common.

The problem with this, of course,

is that we don’t allow

for the strong possibility

that the other person may have become something

we don’t recognize,


or fully understand.


What if we did something different?

What if we expected them to be different?

Parents, what if we looked at our kids, for example, and said, maybe instead of

you’ve always been that way or

so-and-so’s just like (Dad) or

don’t be silly, that’s not for you,


wow! you’re trying something different!


It’s hard to change. But also kind of fun.


tell me more about that, I’ve always wanted to try it.

What if we were curious people

who allowed others to be different

simply by being different ourselves?

It’s not world peace.

It’s not solving world hunger, or poverty, or the problem of evil.

It won’t always work.

And we won’t always feel up to it.

But what if this was our Christmas gift to each other? What if, instead of running ragged to all the pleas to give more or be more or do more or think more or read more or make everything perfect, or at least everything perfectly according to Facebook

and instead just let each other grow a bit?

Our family is headed into a season of uncertainty on several levels. Our girls are growing and time is speeding by. Our jobs are changing and growing and forcing us to grow in the best of ways. And in the middle of it all, we’ve been told

the cancer gene levels in my blood





It was only one test.

It’s possible it was nothing.

It’s might be just a blip,

an inaccurate reading,

or a number not all that different from my previous ones.

But it might not.

We won’t know until the next round of test results –

that take three months to get back.


For now.



For good news or bad, we’re not sure.

The one thing I am sure of is that

there’s nothing I can do

to affect the outcome

of a test I’ve already taken


take my little white pills,




and soak up the myriad of moments

that, for now,

I’ve been given.

And while I could be angry

and some may say I’d be justified in it




See, cancer has been a good friend to me.

It’s poked and prodded all of the worst parts from me and somehow made me



better connected

and more lightly accessorized with the baggage

of all my immature



and expectations

of what my adult life would look like.

Friends, please hear me on this:

Cancer has been good to me.

(And no, I’m not making that up.)

The people who have been there in it

the people who’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly

know exactly why I’m saying this.

They know

they can see

that I’m not who I was

and I never will be again.

So friends,

As we enter this Christmas season,

I urge you

to resist that urge

to go back.

Choose to go on.

Decide to go forward.

And offer those around you the space to join you.

If we do it right,

that new land,

full of possibilities and

growth and

new creation

will be so appealing

that they won’t be able to help

but trip along behind us

Beside us.

Hand in hand.

Giggling at the possibility of a second chance.

Another breath.

A new life.

And really,

isn’t that what Christmas is all about?


A very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year. Let’s hope its a good one, without any fear. – John Lennon




Some day we will all find what we are looking for. Or maybe we won’t. Maybe we will find something much greater than that. – Anonymous

Let the ruins come to life. – Joel Houston


Two and a half years ago, I stared at a computer screen and gripped a scrap piece of paper in my hands.

Should I? Shouldn’t I? 


Does it even matter?

I was 31;

three years into my relationship with leukemia,

and not too many more into my relationship with motherhood.

I struggled to juggle

kids who were no longer toddlers, not quite school-aged children,

with a job I mostly loved, sometimes hated.

I’d graduated from one phase of life

here is where we have children –

to one I never thought I’d see

here is where we try to keep me alive so I can raise those children.

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Surface Tension

When grace is joined by wrinkles, it is adorable. There is an unspeakable dawn in happy old age. – Victor Hugo

Please don’t retouch my wrinkles. It took me so long to earn them. – Anna Magnani


One year ago last month

in the Great Meredith Renovation of 2013

after much, erhm, spirited debate

David and I reached a peaceful resolution to the exasperating question of:

Carpet on the stairs, or hardwood?

The beauty of our wood floor, its ease of cleaning – and our naive belief that our children were too old to fall down the stairs – won out over the traditional safety of our previously-carpeted stairs.


Ten days ago I fell down those stairs.

I could feel it happen. Side note: walking and texting is dangerous.

So are un-hemmed Lululemon pants.

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Experience teaches only the teachable. – Aldous Huxley

…(but) what’s the use of tears? – Herbert Kretzmer & Alain Boublil

I love the smell of summer rain. Spicy-sweet, it says, you needed me.

This morning, I think we did.

Let’s be honest: sometimes summer is exhausting.

Every day in July and August I have a list of things I should do.

Then I see the sun.

It’ll go away if I don’t go enjoy it.

So I do.

And every day my list gets longer.

The truth is, I don’t like my list. I’d rather be outside on my deck with my book and my coffee. Sitting. Breathing. Fantasizing about the garden I would grow if only I wasn’t a black thumb.

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Brown Bear, Black Bear

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. – Winston Churchill

Frailty, thy name is cancer.

One moment, an oracle, another, a despot; it’s wedged its way in the crevice of each day – lurking, threatening to erupt if I give it too much attention.

Or too little.

Six months ago, I burst out of the oncologist’s office with an uncontainable laugh. I’d just found out the philadelphia (ie. leukemia) gene was at the lowest it had ever been. When David pointed this out to my doctor, he acknowledged with a smile that yes, you are doing very well, and several other words that I somehow understood to mean I was past the goal line and I was out of danger and this was as close to remission as CML gets.

I don’t know what I was thinking.

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There’s a light in the darkness, though the night is black as my skin; there’s a light burning bright, showing me the way, but I know where I’ve been – Hairspray

Nine days ago, I sat in a crowded oncology office,


The patient in front of me took longer than usual. He was young, tired, gray.

I knew that look.


Do I look sick? I said to David.

I messaged a friend who was also waiting. Waiting for specialist results. Waiting for answers. Waiting to know if there was a big reason why all these little things wouldn’t seem to go away.

They’d not heard anything yet.

An hour later, the doctor called for me. Here we go, I thought.

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I have a friend who’s really good at something.

Actually, I have lots of friends who are freakishly talented at one thing or another. David and I float in a variety of accomplished crowds. We know alotof big-dreamers, sky-reachers, place-goers, and world-changers.

We – not so secretly – love living vicariously through them.

But to us, they’re just them.

We recently attended a party for one of these place-goers. Everyone who spoke about her mentioned her incredible talent.

I wasn’t surprised to hear how gifted she was. But the more I heard people refer to that thing, the more I thought, yeah, she’s really great at that, but…

…But to me, she’s just her.

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Back to the Future: A History of Thanksgiving

On my counter sits two bags of delicious homemade bread. My fridge boasts a beautiful display of homemade roasted pepper soup made by one of the very talented local authors of Mennonite Girls Can Cook. Last night we devoured plates of roasted potatoes, walnut chocolate chip cookies, and ‘easy lasagna’ casserole, all cooked fresh by a very dear friend of our family.

And right now I’m lightly cleaning up for the arrival of some of our favorite people ever – whom we also happen to be related to. These amazing friends and relatives are bringing every last inch of Thanksgiving dinner to us.


All of this comes on the heels of the best news I’ve heard in the last few months: my prolactin levels were normal.

That means, no tumor.

At least, not in my pituitary gland.

It wouldn’t technically have been cancer, and it wouldn’t technically have been in my brain, but the thought of operating inside my skull – and the thought of something growing inside my skull, affecting how I thought, saw, and did things – really shook me.

The thought of another cancer or almost cancer made my brain – and heart – hurt.

David texted me the news on Thursday morning: I called the doctor. Pit levels are good.  Read more

Life, Death & Hope: A Salute to the ‘Courageous’ Jack Layton

On Friday I quoted The Toronto Star‘s reference to Rick Mercer as one of Canada’s great educators.

They must be right, for this morning I woke to the sad news of Jack Layton’s death, and my first thoughts were of Rick Mercer.

No, not really.

But a lot of what I remember about Jack Layton came through The Rick Mercer Report.

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