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6 of the Strangest Signs of Hormone Imbalance

Burning Tongue Syndrome

Burning Tongue Syndrome

We've all heard of the common symptoms associated with hormone imbalance like weight gain, insomnia and hot flashes.  Here are 6 of the strange symptoms that could be a sign that your hormones are out of whack.  Our hormones have a complicated relationship with our Central Nervous System as well as our Cardiovascular Systems, as you're about to discover.

1. Burning Tongue Syndrome

I am happy to say I have never experienced this less-common symptom of hormone imbalance but for some menopausal women it is their reality.  It is a painful and very uncomfortable sensation which feels (or so I'm told) just like you've burned your tongue sipping on a hot beverage.  You probably won't have any physical signs of a burn in your mouth, but your mouth might feel dry, sticky or itchy and you might even have a metallic taste in your mouth.  Interestingly, for some women it get's worse throughout the day and feels better at night.  

2. Formication - Crawling Skin Sensation

No, not fornication - formication.  It is the unimaginably horrible sensation of having the feeling of small insects crawling on or under your skin!  It results in itchiness and of course, most of us would scratch. The scratching can lead to damaging the skin. 

3. Tingling Extremities - (known as Paresthesia)

This symptom brings on a numb feeling or 'pins and needles' usually in your feet and legs or hands and arms.  I had this symptom after my 3rd baby was born and it would last for only a few seconds each time.  I didn't have a clue what it was and it was quite scary.  Little did I know at the time, nor did my doctor, that it was associated to the sudden drop in hormone levels. Fortunately for me, when I got my hormones balanced this irritating symptom went away.  

4. Electric Shock Sensation

Can you imagine feeling like you're being given an electric shock throughout your day?  Well, it is another one of those strange symptoms of hormone imbalance.  Even though they last for only a second - it must be very irritating and unnerving for women who experience them.  Often they are across the head and sometimes the sensation occurs right before a hot flash.  Oh Joy.

5.  Sudden Muscular Weakness &/or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

After my 3rd baby was born, I would suddenly have weakness in my arm that would only last for a few moments but it would happen suddenly so I was afraid of dropping my baby.  Again, for me as soon as my hormones got balanced I was relieved of this irritating symptom.  It may have been a sign of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome which is also linked to hormone imbalance.   

6.  Frozen Shoulder - Adhesive Capsulitis

This is an inability to move one or both shoulders and can be very painful.  It is most common in women and especially women in perimenopause and menopause.  Not all doctors will talk about hormone imbalance on this one.  I've heard of doctors who don't realize it can be related to hormones.  And don't forget, many other joint problems/pain can also have a hormonal cause. 

 

There are other causes for all of these symptoms - it is never a good idea to self-diagnose so please discuss these symptoms with your doctor!  

Again, I know many of us with hormone issues discuss these with our doctor, only to be told "it's in our head" (thankfully I've never been told that but I know numerous women who have been) or that the symptoms aren't related to hormones.  As always, be an empowered patient:  do your homework and advocate for yourself! 

 

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://hormonesoup.com/6-of-the-strangest-signs-of-hormone-imbalance/

Thanks for Making My Day!

I just wanted to say a big THANK YOU to all the women who have reached out to me over the past few years!   

You've connected with me:

  • when you felt you weren't being listened to by your doctor, 
  • when you questioned your intuition but really just needed reassurance that you need to trust it all along,
  • when you were at the bottom and felt like you couldn't cope another day,
  • when you just needed someone out there who didn't judge and would understand,
  • when you have a simple question or a long complex one,
  • when you had no one to talk to about your low libido or your mental health symptoms,
  • when you needed to know how to find one of those amazing doctors who will listen to you,
  • when you needed validation that you weren't "crazy",
  • when you were feeling AMAZING again! 

When I hear from you it brings me back to the days when I had no one to talk with and no one who understood.  You allow me to remember what it felt like to be struggling with these health problems and yet, somehow, still get through the day.   And how grateful I am for being able to be in a position today to let you know you aren't alone and it can be so much better!   I know that the 5 minutes I take out of my day to send you an email is just a blip in my day but has the potential to be life changing.  I, too, needed just 5 minutes from someone once.  

Healing Hugs to You. 

Have a day as beautiful as you are!  :)

Permanent link to this article: http://hormonesoup.com/thanks-for-making-my-day/

What is Integrative Medicine Anyway?

Integrative Medicine both saved my life and created a life. That's a pretty bold statement but it's my true to life experience.  When I say 'saved" my life I don't necessarily mean from a terminal disease like cancer - but rather it provided me with the health I needed to live a life that was abundant and fulfilling and to me that is a life saved.  

When asked to describe the healthcare they want, women describe integrative medicine 

 

And if it wasn't for the integrative approach to my health, my beautiful little son wouldn't be here either.   This is a little boy who has brought so much joy to my life it's indescribable. Wow - I can't even begin to imagine my life without him!  What a welcome gift after so many fertility struggles!  No fertility pills - just giving my body what it needed and getting to the root cause by balancing my hormones.  It seems unreal but really it's pretty intuitive when you think about it.  

 

At the time, I didn't know anything about Integrative Medicine, and I didn't even know that was the type of care I was receiving. I've noticed that is the case with many women I talk too. Yet anyone I know that has moved from taking a traditional approach to their health toward an integrative approach is very much like me and would never go back.  It's why I'm so passionate about teaching people that this type of medical approach exists (and not just for fertility issues).

Only 23% of women know the term Integrative Medicine

 

So if you're wondering what Integrative Medicine even is, you're not alone. When we did a survey of women in Canada I wasn't all that surprised to find out that only 23% of women knew the term "Integrative Medicine".  Surprisingly though, when women have been asked to describe the type of healthcare they want - they describe something REALLY REALLY close to Integrative Medicine!  

 

Let's be frank, as women, we know what we want - now all we need is to know how to get it! 

 

Dr. Adam Perlman, from Duke Integrative Medicine, describes Integrative Medicine so eloquently so I'll let you check out his quick video.  

Check it out! 

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://hormonesoup.com/what-is-integrative-medicine-anyway/

Mental Illness, Endocrine Disorder or Reproductive Disorder?

Our Endocrine System is Connected to Our Brain

Our Endocrine System is Connected to Our Brain
Copyright: / 123RF Stock Photo

So yesterday was "End the Stigma Day" and I shared my story in my  I am the Face of Mental Illness blog post because I have no shame in having had Postpartum Mood Disorder.  I did, feel ashamed at the time though, so I can relate to why women don't seek the help that they need. Guess what? I shared my story and the sky didn't fall in!  It's freeing in fact.  And if it helps one woman feel less alone then it was worthwhile.  And here's the thing, I don't know if it changes anyone's view of me and I DON'T CARE, if it does they aren't someone I want in my life anyway.  

The medical community doesn't recognize hormone imbalances as disorders

I had Postpartum Mood Disorder more than once and didn't go to the doctor for it until the 3rd time.  It felt different each time and it got worse with each of my pregnancies. In some cases it escalated when I was weaning my babies from breastfeeding. (I rarely hear this talked about and we need to discuss this. But that's for another day!)

 

Interestingly, of all the women I know, I didn't know anyone who suffered from it - how can that be possible?  With prevalence rates being estimated at 1 in 7 women having Postpartum Mood Disorder.  Too many women suffer in silence. The more of us that speak up the better.   

 

Mental Illness?  Endocrine Disorder? or Reproductive Disorder?

Here's the thing about my story - my Postpartum Mood Disorder was easily treated by my OB/GYN by balancing my hormones - so was it a Mental Illness or an Endocrine Disorder or a Reproductive Disorder?  The thing is the medical community doesn't recognize hormone imbalances as disorders, so therefore, it falls under the category of a mood disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, (DSM-5).  Herein lies the problem - my OB/GYN has had success for many years prescribing hormone therapy to women who have postpartum mood disorder, yet this still isn't first-line treatment provided or recommended in the guidelines mostly due to lack of enough studies.

Some might call what my doctor does, Experience Based Medicine, but I believe he's actually an expert in what is actually Evidence Based Practice (EBP) described by Engebretson, Mahoney, & Carlson, 2008 as involving three parts:  

  1. best research evidence
  2. the provider's clinical expertise,
  3. and the patient's values and circumstances.

I didn't stumble upon this doctor - I sought him out which is due to my strong belief in advocating for myself in my healthcare. It's the same approach to prevent my miscarriages - progesterone wasn't in the guidelines and probably still isn't.  So it is a lucky or proactive woman who finds herself with this kind of doctor. 

 

Mood disorders fall under Psychiatry, Hormone problems fall under Endocrinology and Reproduction falls under Obstetrics!  

 So who's talking to whom?

 

I've wondered if women thought they might have an Endocrine Disorder or thought of it as a Reproductive Disorder would they seek the help they need?  I believe they would.  Would they get the help they need?  I think the chance is higher.  Do I think it will happen? I have hope in the way of Integrative Medicine - an approach which is on the rise and I believe is growing rapidly.

Although my dream has yet to be realized en-mass I'm not alone in my vision and hope for the future.  Back in 2006, Katon and Unutzer, were speaking about the "interdisciplinary practice of medicine", such as co-location of Gynecology-Psychiatry clinics which would increase the usage of hormonal treatments for mood disorders and benefit the mental health of postpartum women.  And while they call it the interdisciplinary collaboration - I really think is the integrative approach to medicine.  

 

To find out more about my vision for women's health you can check out Open Source Health.  

 

To read my other Blog Posts related to Postpartum Mood Disorder:

The Happy Mask of Postpartum Mood Disorder 

Could a Blood Test Have Predicted My Postpartum Mood Disorder?

The Cruel Joke of Postpartum Mood Disorder

Love Letter to My Pharmacist - Bioidentical Hormones for Postpartum Mood Disorder

Postpartum Anxiety - I Thought I was Dying - Part One

Postpartum Anxiety - I Thought I was Dying - Part Two

40% of Women Cannot Identify the Full Spectrum of Perinatal Mood Disorders

Eat FAT and Other Tips for the Best Postpartum Mental Health

Postpartum Thyroid Disorder

Is Half a Postpartum Plan Better Than No Plan At All?

Are Women's Health Issues Being Painted with a Mental Health Brush?

My Postpartum OCD

Maternal Mental Health - Make it Your Business

 

Permanent link to this article: http://hormonesoup.com/mental-illness-endocrine-disorder-reproductive-disorder/

I am the Face of Mental Illness

I am the 1 in 5

I am the 1 in 5

I asked my daughter if it would bother her if I titled my post "I am the Face of Mental Illness". Unfazed at 15, she matter-of-factly said, "It's true" and went on with her business. 

By that simple comment, my wise-beyond-her-years daughter gave me hope for ending the stigma surrounding mental illness.  I teach my kids about mental illness and they know about the postpartum mood disorder I faced.  We speak openly about it at home and I can only hope other young people are able to have the same open discussions with their parents.  

Assuming the most likely memories she would have about me during my postpartum phases was when she was 6 and her brother was born, I asked her if she remembers anything about it. With the brutal honesty that only adolescence brings, I got my answer: "Besides you being haggard?"  Thanks for that :P.

But, indeed, what she said is true, I was exhausted and overwhelmed with anxiety every minute of the day and during my wakefulness at night.  When I look at this top picture I see the bags under my 8-weeks postpartum eyes.    I was in the throes of severe Postpartum Anxiety. It is debilitating. It hurts. It's real. I am amazed when I look back in my mind's eye and wonder how I survived and took care of 3 children.  I was being awakened at night by PVC's - premature ventricular contractions made me feel like my heart was doing a 180 degree flip, convincing me I was going to be leaving my children mother-less due to an impending heart attack.  (Eventually I would learn that one of the causes of PVCs is hormonal imbalance after pregnancy. They went away as soon as I started taking progesterone.)

I am the 1 in 5 

I was exclusively breast-feeding so waking up with the baby and sometimes my other 2 children left me exhausted in the morning.  Sleep deprivation is a compounding factor in mental illness and I was barely getting more than a couple of hours of sleep at a time so always missing out on the restorative sleep.  

 

I Was a Happy New Mom - Postpartum Anxiety Is an Invisible Illness

Bring on the anxiety - I had never heard of postpartum anxiety - I didn't know my severe anxiety was related to postpartum mood disorder.  I thought I knew about postpartum mood disorder - I knew about depression, mood swings, and psychosis. I thought I was knowledgable. Yet I had never heard of Anxiety and OCD commonly associated with pregnancy.  

 

Today in Canada we're talking about Ending the Stigma of Mental Illness using the hashtag  #EndtheStigma and #Mental Health.   I am compelled to share my story.  

 

I heard Howie Mandel's story on the radio this morning.  He talked about his "accidental" public admission of his OCD and how devastated he was that he had just announced to millions of television viewers that he sees a psychiatrist.  I am willing to bet that now he sees it as one of the best things that ever happened to him because when Howie left the television studio and felt like  jumping into traffic a stranger came up and whispered in his ear, "me too". Those two words uttered by a mere stranger changed his life.  By sharing my story I hope that I can be like the guy who whispered in Howie's ear for another woman suffering from a mood disorder.  

 

To this day, when I think back to those times I am still brought to tears about it even though I recovered quickly compared to most people.  I am in awe at what the human body and mind is capable of.  

If I gained one positive thing from my experience it's compassion.

Please have compassion for those who have mental illness.

 

 

If you are pregnant know the signs and symptoms, get your spouse to know the signs,  inform your friends and family.  There's a myth that all women are being screened.  I am here to tell you that it is NOT happening.  Don't wait for your doctor to screen you talk to someone.    Talk to anyone who will listen.  Help is near. You are not alone. 

 

 

Postpartum Psychosis is a medical emergency - if you believe you or someone you know is suffering from Postpartum Psychosis call 9-1-1. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://hormonesoup.com/face-mental-illness/

Is it Really 2015? The State of Women’s Sexual, Reproductive & Hormone Health

From where I sit sometimes I feel like I get glimpses into the next millennium - hearing about and having access to some of the most incredible high-tech ideas, companies and science around the world - yet when it comes to women's health sometimes you'd hardly know its 2015.  While there are some exciting things going on in terms of tech so little of it boils down to the day-to-day life of women with these kinds of health concerns and it's not just a few of us.  Here's the nitty-gritty on just a few of the super important women's health issues that need so much more awareness & research:

Thyroid Disorder:

  • approximately 300 million people in the world have thyroid disorder & women are affected 8 times more than menHalf are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.  Patients, globally, are begging and sometimes "marching" for improvements to testing and treatment but it seems to fall on deaf ears and the standards aren't changing.   Untreated thyroid disorder causes issues such as: infertility, miscarriage, low IQ in infants and there is a form of postpartum mood disorder that is related to the thyroid which often goes undetected (see below).

Endometriosis:

  • Endometriosis effects 8.5 million North American women yet they suffer for 10 years (on average) before getting diagnosed! 

Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) affects up to 7 million North American women and is recognized as one of the most common endocrine/metabolic disorders of women, yet many women haven’t heard of it and aren’t being screened for it even though they have the symptoms.  Part of the issue is the confusion - guidelines and diagnostic criteria are frequently changing.

Infertility:

  • Infertility – getting and staying pregnant - affects 6 million American couples.   There's so much misinformation on this topic and it is a daily roller coaster ride for anyone who experiences it.  It's like grieving for someone every month and hard to really explain to someone who hasn't gone through it. Sadly, some women I know have been encouraged to go for costly and invasive IVF before being adquately screened for other possible issues.  Thankfully new treatments, genetic testing and technology is creating rapid change.

Ovarian Cancer:

  • Ovarian cancer is the second most common and deadliest form of gynecologic cancer. It is referred to as the “silent killer” of women because it is usually only discovered when it is stage 3 or 4. Early detection would save lives - 94% of stage one ovarian cancer is considered curable (www.cancer.org), yet screening for the early signs of ovarian cancer doesn't happen because most of the signs overlap other disorders or seem vague. Many women and doctors don’t recognize the early signs - so know the symptoms and don't delay in seeing your doctor.  Find the symptom checklist here:  National Ovarian Cancer Coalition

Dense Breast Tissue:

  • at least 40% of women have dense breast tissue, the percentage is higher for post-menopausal women.   For these women mammograms, alone, are an inadequate screening tool for this huge number of women.  What's worse is that we often aren't told that whether or not we have dense breast tissue - the way to know is through a mammogram.  Women with dense breasts can request additional screening such as Automated 3D whole breast ultrasounds. 
  • Check out: Are You Dense? and Each One Tell One

Perinatal Mood Disorders:

  • 10 - 15% of women suffer from what is commonly referred to as Postpartum Depression (PPD) but is really better described as Perinatal Mood Disorders.  Women aren't being routinely screened, women feel shame and stigma and often don't seek help, a lack of understanding about these disorders, women are forced to advocate for themselves and be informed about the possibility of physiological causes such as postpartum thyroiditis and hormone imbalances.  Women need to know PPD is treatable. 

Hormone Imbalances:

  • This is such a broad topic and although it affects millions of us, it is still met with confusion, misunderstanding, lack of awareness and often just downright ignorance!  I constantly hear stories from women who have had their concerns minimized or even completely disregarded.  Even young women are experiencing hormone imbalances today that are being addressed by the typical standard of care:  birth control pills (oral contraceptives) and anti-depressants (SSRIs).
  • Women in perimenopause, menopause and post-menopause often experience fear and confusion, still not knowing whether to take hormones or not because there is so much controversy and self-interested parties it's hard to know what the right decision is.  The WHI (Women's Health Initiative) study was launched in 1991 and from a patient's perspective after 24 years the results still bring about confusion. 

Hysterectomy:

  • 90% of hysterectomies are medically unneccesary.  Enough said?

 

It might seem like I'm in a gloomy mood about the state of women's health but I just think that to effect change we need to know that starting point.  As women, we need to know we aren't alone and to see these kinds of stats helps us realize that we can and should advocate for ourselves.  And although it's a bit dismal from where I sit sometimes - it's not ALL gloom and doom. There are incredible things happening thanks to entrepreneurs, doctors, e-patients, advocates and scientists in areas like home testing and monitoring, genetics, participatory and integrative medicine.  I promise I'll share some of the wonderful things happening soon too.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://hormonesoup.com/the-state-of-womens-sexual-reproductive-hormone-health/

Uterus for Sale on Ebay: Is this What Women’s Health Has Come To?

Ann Truscott, wants more time to live and her brilliant friend, April Creed, is helping her get it in a most unusual way - by offering her uterus up for sale on ebay.  Yes, you read that right, her uterus.   

 

Uterus for Sale - Ebay

 

When I heard this story, all at once I was deeply saddened for Ann and her family and also overwhelmed with despair that someone would have to resort to becoming the best marketer of their crowdfunding campaign to get access to the treatment they want.  

And great marketing it is - April's eBay ad is witty and would be quite humourous if it wasn't such a grand example of what is wrong with today's healthcare, not just in Australia but globally.  Of course April isn't the only person crowdfunding for health, it's the dismal realization that now there are so many campaigns to get healthcare treatments funded that this is what it takes to stand out - selling a worn out old uterus on ebay!

You can listen to April's interview:

 

 

I'm left thinking:  

Good for you, April I love your go-get-em attitude!   You've brought more attention to the struggle many patients face than you probably expected!   Thanks for your advocacy! 

Best wishes to you Ann - I'm glad you have such a wonderful woman to call a friend and a chance at a prolonged life.  

I still pray for the day when women don't have to resort to extreme measures to get the healthcare they deserve.

 

You can check out and donate to Ann Truscott's GoFundMe campaign here.

Permanent link to this article: http://hormonesoup.com/uterus-sale-ebay-womens-health-come/

The Fantastical World of Hormones

Thyroid Surgery 1890s

It's pretty sad of me to admit but it was a bit of a good thing for me to have gotten sick a few days ago.  Nothing major - just a really bad cold/flu that wiped me out for a few days. It's no surprise that I've been burning the candle at both ends, nor is it uncommon - many women I know do the same thing trying to juggle their personal and professional lives.  And we KNOW that the stressful, at times chaotic, lives we lead these days wreak havoc on our hormones!  So shame on me - but here's the thing - knowing is not always the same as doing!  

The good that came out of me laying low for a few days was that I got to read and watch a few things that had been on my "To-Do-When-I-Get-The-Time" list.  I wanted to share this BBC Documentary with you.  I finally took the time to watch it and it is FASCINATING!  I highly recommend watching it.  If you enjoy documentaries or are interested in hormones or the evolution of endocrinology you will find this really worth your time.  

The discussion goes back into the history of male and female hormones and how the medical understanding and treatment of hormone issues has evolved.  Beginning in the 1700s with the practise of pre-pubescent castration of male sopranos, to the belief that ovaries were the "nerve" centre in women leading to the removal of ovaries for the treatment of nymphomania, anxiety and hysteria in the 1890's (not all that long ago!), to injecting sheep’s “thyroid juice” into patients, finally to the more recent discovery of a hormone called leptin released by our fat cells.   

The take-away from this for me was that even though we've come a long way, the endocrine system is highly complex and and any knowledge we have gained has been in VERY recent years.  Couple that with the gender bias in medicine (remember the avoidance of using female lab rats due to their hormones messing up the research!?) which is a modern day disgrace and it is apparent we still have a long way to go. 

So grab a cup of coffee and have a look - I'm sure you'll be as fascinated as I am.

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://hormonesoup.com/fantastical-world-hormones/

Perfect Reason for Advocacy: Doctors are Still Using Power Morcellation!

Surgical LightsI am at the Health 2.0 Conference in Santa Clara today where there's lots of talk about patients participating in their healthcare, advocacy and patient safety and in fact, I will be on the stage on Wednesday speaking about women advocating for themselves.  When I stepped outside my hotel room this morning and saw on the front page of the Wall Street Journal the headline:  Gynecologists Resist FDA Over Popular Surgical Tool I felt sick.  If you recall my blog post:

A Doctor Told Me To Warn You: What Women Need to Know About Morcellation

The FDA put out a warning that the gynecological tool can spread undetected cancer AND the manufacturers of the device, Johnson & Johnson, removed the device from the market.  YET it has been discovered that doctors across the US (and possibly beyond) are still using the tool because they think that the risk is being overblown.  It's true the FDA didn't ban the use of the tool.  The risk they say is 1 in 350.  Are you comfortable with that risk?  Dr Amy Reed isn't - she was the 1 in 350 and the procedure spread her undetected cancer.  

Read her story here: Deadly Medicine

Are women being told that they are at risk for the spread of undetected cancer if they undergo the procedure?  Are they being told there are other procedures?  Knowing what I know about patients struggling to advocate for themselves coupled with the gender bias in medicine I am cringing right now.  

If anything, this has just strengthened my resolve to help women advocate for themselves. Patient safety is everyone's concern. Be an informed patient. Advocate for yourself and make sure you're comfortable with the risk you are taking.  No one cares about your health as much as you do.  

 In the spirit of Advocacy - Look forward to my upcoming chat with Sasha Ottey on her PCOS Radio Show where we talk about the importance of Advocacy, tips on how to advocate for youself and this is such a huge example of why we need to do just that. 

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://hormonesoup.com/perfect-reason-advocacy-doctors-still-using-power-morcellation/

My Vision for the Future of Women’s Health

Featured at Health 2.0 - LargeI can't even describe how excited I am to be heading down to Silicon Valley next week to take part in the Health 2.0 Conference.  And not as a mere bystander but rather, as a speaker and innovator!   I've talked about the company I founded, Open Source Health, on the blog before and this is the first time we are going to be giving a sneak peek at the technology my team is developing so I wanted to share the news with you. 

Even though it's me as CEO of Open Source Health speaking at the conference - I feel compelled to share that part of my life with you - because this entire journey began when I started blogging here at Hormone Soup.  It's the women from over 100 countries who have reached out to me through Hormone Soup and felt a connection to my stories that have inspired me.  

From tears to action - bringing ideas to life! 

I've shared many tears with some of you over the state of women's health.  My passion for women's health runs deep and despite the challenges we face with our healthcare system the way it is I have such hope for the future of healthcare in this new digital age!  

There's no point building something that's already being done so what I am doing is disruptive, it's innovative, it's integrative, and best of all it's women-centric!  I can't wait to share it with you on September 24th!!  

 

 

 

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://hormonesoup.com/my-vision-for-the-future-of-womens-health/

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