Episode #83: Sarah’s Path to Fertility:
How A Holistic Approach lead to PCOS Health
What you’ll learn in this episode
This is a special episode featuring the inspiring journey of Sarah, a remarkable individual who has overcome many PCOS challenges and carved her path to success and pregnancy. In this episode, we’ll explore the learning and mindset shifts of Sarah’s story, that lead her to finding her success path. I know you will be inspired and filled with hope as you listen, whether you are wanting more energy, to lose some weight or to optimize fertility. By sharing our stories, as Sarah has so graciously allowed me to do, we feel connected and not alone as we navigate creating PCOS Health.
Controlled by PCOS: Navigating Challenges
Similar to many women with PCOS, Sarah was diagnosed in her early 20’s but not provided with any direction as to how to improve her symptoms other an offered birth control. She followed all the mainstream health and weight loss advice but always felt that staying “healthy” was impossibly hard for her even though she was putting in a lot of effort consistently.
The Turning Point: Discovering Inner Strength
Her motivation for learning how to heal and find better lasting health came from knowing she wanted to start a family soon and that beyond wanting to get pregnant she also wanted to finally stop constantly struggling with her weight and health. She wanted to know what her body needed and she wanted it to respond with the desired results when she put the effort in. In this episode I’ll share the moments that sparked a profound shift for her, leading Sarah to discover her inner strength and resilience. Learn how she harnessed challenges as opportunities for growth, setting the stage for a transformative chapter in her personal and professional life.
The Triumph: Lessons Learned and Success Achieved
Sarah’s story is a happy, inspiring success story but it is a story that took many months so if you are currently in the fog of PCOS feeling like everything is a challenge I’m excited for you to listen to her story because the approach her story will walk you through is a repeatable path to achieving PCOS Health. Sarah’s story is a testament to the power of perseverance. Be prepared to be inspired and motivated as we conclude this special episode with valuable takeaways from Sarah’s extraordinary journey. Go ahead and hit play now!
Let’s Continue The Conversation
Do you have questions about this episode or other questions about PCOS? I would love to connect and chat on a more personal level over on Instagram. My DMs are my favorite place to chat more.
So go visit me on IG @nourishedtohealthy.com
Let’s Continue The Conversation
Do you have questions about this episode or other questions about PCOS? I would love to connect and chat on a more personal level over on Instagram. My DMs are my favorite place to chat more.
So go visit me on IG @nourishedtohealthy.com
Spread the Awareness
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Read The Full Episode Transcript Here
PCOS has such a tendency to hold us back and make us feel like we are trapped in a situation that we have very little control over and so in today’s episode, I’m excited to share one of the stories of a woman that I worked with and her holistic approach and how it completely transformed her journey with PCOS and allowed her to finally feel hope and then ultimately get pregnant and really feel like she is in the driver’s seat of her health and that she can do anything without PCOS holding her back. So I’m excited to share this story with you today, and I’m excited for you to see the different steps along the journey that she encountered that while unique to her, the core of what she experienced is repeated over and over and over with the women that I watch and work with on their PCOS healing journeys. So let’s get started.
You’re listening to the PCOS Repair podcast, where we explore the ins and outs of PCOS and how to repair the imbalances in your hormones naturally with a little medical help sprinkled in. Hi, I’m Ashlene Korcek, and with many years of medical and personal experience with polycystic ovarian syndrome, it is my joy to watch women reverse their PCOS as they learn to nourish their body in a whole new way. With the power of our beliefs, our mindset, and our environment, and the understanding of our genetics, we can heal at the root cause.
Welcome back to the PCOS Repair podcast, where today we’re going to be sharing Sarah’s journey and how she took a very holistic approach and finally gained control of her PCOS in a way that she felt empowered and not just full of hope, but felt like she could really accomplish anything that she needed to or wanted to with her health at any point in her health journey. That’s a really exciting place to get to because when you feel like, Okay, I want to get pregnant, that’s great. We can work through that, you can regain a cycle, regulate a cycle, improve ovulation, have a healthy pregnancy but beyond that, that’s a huge thing, not something to brush over but beyond that, we also want to feel good for a lifetime, we want to feel strong, we want to feel healthy, we don’t want to feel like PCOS is always in our way as we move through our life. Learning how to have a holistic approach allows us to not just get pregnant, because a lot of women go to a fertility clinic and are able to get pregnant, or a lot of women will work with me and improve their environment and their lifestyle situation so that they’re able to improve their chances while going through an infertility treatment and they’ll get pregnant and they’ll have a healthy baby, but then they’ll come back and they’ll be like, I want to take this a step further because I want to have more energy. Now, especially as a mom, I need more energy and I have less sleep and I have less control over my environment than I did before and so learning how to really take a holistic approach, recognize what our body is needing, provide what our body is needing, and really just get a handle on PCOS from a very full lifestyle aspect is just so empowering and that’s exactly what Sarah did.
Okay, so first of all, Sarah was dealing with PCOS. She knew she had PCOS in her early 20s. She went on birth control during college because of just having horrible, horrible horrible cycles. She went on birth control to help regulate and improve her cycles. She stayed on it for a couple of years, and she got married and about a year or two into her marriage, she was ready to start trying for a family. She was early 20s and just stopped taking the birth control pill, figured she didn’t really need to see a physician at that point but then her periods never came back normal. She didn’t think too much about this because they had been irregular and problematic, which is why she was diagnosed with PCOS back in college but because she had had that diagnosis, she was able to go about reading and looking into things about PCOS and began to worry because she finding all of these statistics and stories about people that had a hard time getting pregnant. That led her to go straight to her OB/GYN, who recommended a fertility specialist for her, and she went pretty quickly on to Clomid, she went through six rounds of Clomid, had horrible side effects, felt awful the whole time. It was really hard on her relationship, it was hard on her work environment because she felt like she was calling off work because of how horrible she was feeling and unable to function while she was in a Clomid cycle. Not everyone has that experience with Clomid, some people sail through it, other people, it hits pretty hard. She felt like it was just a horrible experience, after six rounds, she felt very defeated, and felt like she needed to focus on something else.
She had always wanted to work with animals, and she felt like she just needed to completely change pace, and she decided to go back to vet school. She actually, she had been a vet tech for several years, and she decided to go back and become a veterinarian. While she was in school, she did not go back on birth control, she tried really carefully to not get pregnant because the schooling was pretty intense, and she felt like she needed to get through that before she tried to start a family again. When she was ending vet school a couple of years later, so now she’s in her later 20s, she decided that she was going to eventually start taking this very seriously, but she wanted to start with a holistic approach, and that’s when I met Sarah. Her plan was to eventually go on and start fertility treatments. She had heard that Letrozole would be a good option if she had not done well on Clomid, so she knew that was an option as well as most people have heard of IVF, and so she felt like, you know what? Having a family was very important to her, and she was willing to go through of those steps.
But she also felt like there was an issue that she never had had regular periods, and she wanted to see what she could do to get her own health under control. Also, as she had gone through graduate school, she felt like there was definitely room for improvement on her own self-care. The grueling curriculum of graduate school had left her worn out and run down, although she really enjoyed what she did. She was trying to, now at the end of that graduate school tunnel, really start to balance her and prioritize her health in a new way in hopes of not only preparing herself for infertility treatments, but also just to recover from graduate school and feel like herself again. She has always struggled with her weight, but she wasn’t necessarily what you would call overweight. She felt frustrated because she would go to a doctor’s office and they would maybe comment that her BMI was on the high side, but no one really ever suggested losing weight but she she always felt like weight was an issue for her, she felt like she gained weight really easily, she felt like she couldn’t lose weight when she wanted to and she just felt like she was someone who, if left, didn’t pay attention to her weight, that it was going to creep up, up, up, up, and never stopped. So that was one of the things that she wanted to address when we started working together was easier weight management and then she also felt like she was overly anxious heading into the process of trying to get pregnant again. She felt like it had been so difficult and so trying the first time, and she hadn’t done well with the medications that she was given, that she felt like she had a lot of stress and that was making the whole process not just unenjoyable, but also she was really stressing about it. Then the fact that she knew stress is not good for a fertility journey, she was stressing about the stress that she was having. The two really big issues that she wanted to tackle from a holistic standpoint, well, I guess three issues because the periods were a big one. Then she wanted to include with that that as we worked on regaining a fertile cycle with regular periods, regular ovulation, to figure out why she was having such a hard time with weight management and also, how could she create a mindset that allowed her to go through this without this constant stress, where it wasn’t this constant stress on her and her partner, where it wasn’t this constant stress on her so that she could really enjoy her journey towards motherhood, no matter what it was going to look like and no matter what steps would come next.
So like you know, if you’ve listened to the podcast, if you’ve listened to many episodes of the podcast, I really recommend starting with finding your root cause. Now, most women, we have one or all of the root causes. Most people have more than one, most people probably have two primary ones that we on, but the combination of those play together very differently. It’s really important to see what are the two primary things or three primary things. Rarely do people have four primary things. Typically, it’s one to two main things that we’re going to focus on. Then there may be a close second or third, depending on what that first one is, that we need to make sure we don’t forget as we start that healing journey but I think, and this is where Sarah started to really feel the anxiety and the stress start to ease and this is where I think the first milestone that I want to point out in her journey that you may resonate with or may give you some hope, as this can all seem very overwhelming, she was able to focus on just a few things besides the fact that understanding what’s going on in your body is really always the first step. If we don’t have a diagnosis, if we don’t understand why, if we don’t understand what our symptoms are trying to tell us? How do we start taking action? That’s meaningful action, we start taking action, but it’s like throwing spaghetti at the wall until we understand what is going on and what is our body struggling with, we can’t give focused purposeful action to the problem.
So as we started to really narrow in on her primary root cause, and as we started to look at what her symptoms were telling us, it allowed us to have three or four primary habits that we wanted to cultivate. That gave her such peace of mind. It didn’t seem like this huge mountain of, Oh, I need to change everything that I’m doing overnight. That was one of her first steps of finding hope was that, Oh, this feels more doable than, I have no energy, I don’t eat right, I haven’t been exercising, I’ve been in grad school, and realizing that, You know what? these four things, we don’t need to do all four in the first week, but working up to these four areas of habit change is going to have a huge impact because we have narrowed in on what the primary root cause is. We started to work on the understanding comes pretty quickly. The digging into what the root causes happens pretty quickly. That’s over the first conversation, over the first week. Then she started to spend the first month implementing some of those suggestions that we went through. Then really, it’s about tailoring them to fit her lifestyle. While we are waiting to see how her body responds, because when it comes to hormones, our bodies don’t respond overnight. It can take a couple months for us to really see, are we seeing improvement? This brings us to where milestone number 2 or checkpoint number 2, are we sticking with something long enough that we are able to expect to see results? If we’re constantly changing things up, then we’re constantly throwing our hormones and our body into this new form of chaos. Now, sometimes that works for people in their health, sometimes when we change up our shampoo for a couple of weeks, our hair can feel really nice, and then we realize, Oh, this shampoo is really not any better than the last shampoo. It’s different, and so somehow our hair reacts differently to it. That can also occur when it comes to our energy or we can have a placebo effect. So definitely, we can feel like something’s happening for changing things up a lot but when it comes to hormones, they take a while to regulate and so switching things up quickly is not going to give us good data, good information on is something working for us? Do we need to dig deeper? Do we need to adjust a little bit? and so forth.
During that time, while we’re waiting to see how our bodies respond, I like to help women create those particular habits that are going to assist their bodies to help them incorporate them in a way that works for their life. This is where, yes, we can say we want to eat more protein, we want to cut back on sugar but what does that look like for someone who has to be at work really early in the morning? If you need to be at work at 6:00 AM, that’s going to look very different to someone who works from home or someone who works the night shift. These are all things that are going to be very different, what do you like to eat? Do you like cooking? All of those things are going to create a very different environment for each person.
As Sarah continued to adjust and make things work for her and her schedule, because she had a very busy… She was growing her practices as a veterinarian. She was working in suburban areas, so primarily working in a clinic setting, and was on her feet all day, busy, and needed ways to get exercise, but also ways to unwind and so she found yoga to be a really important part of that for her but then she also wanted to incorporate some more weight lifting and a little bit of walking as well. So we created a combination of those things that worked with her schedule, but also pushed her a little bit so that she was making gains and refinding her health. So over the course of about five months, she lost 15 pounds, which for her was an amazing amount. She would have been hoping to lose somewhere between 7 and 10 and when she lost a little even more than that, she felt her energy go really to this point where it wasn’t hard to keep her energy up. She didn’t feel like she needed caffeine, she felt like she was sleeping well, she just felt like things were humming along in a way that she had never felt before. I call this the hormone sweet spot. I find that most women, and it has nothing to do with fitness bikini ready or anything like that, there is usually a weight that women will find, and it’s really not even a weight on the scale. Truthfully, it’s a body composition. It usually has to do with a percentage body fat or a ratio of lean body mass to body fat and it’s this sweet spot where the hormones are happy. The more excess fat that we hold on our bodies, the higher our insulin resistance is going to be. That makes losing weight harder, it also impacts our energy, it impacts our hormones, and it’s fighting against it. So there’s usually this tipping point, and every person is different, but you’ll discover as you go along your healing journey where that tipping point is and then you know, and you can tell the actual number on the scale can change, but you’ll know there’s this sweet spot where your hormones just do well, and they are happy, and your energy is happy, your symptoms are really manageable or nonexistent, your cycles are really regular, things just fall into place and you can just tell this is your sweet spot and for some women, that’s fairly lean, for some women, it’s a little bit higher body weight, but there’s just a sweet spot for most women.
Now, there is a sweet spot for most women in lean PCOS as well. It has less to do with the number on the scale. Sometimes it’s about actually bringing their weight up slightly, but usually it actually has a lot more to do with lifestyle changes, dietary exercise, and sleep and stress management, then it does a number on the scale. Usually for them, they find that it’s actually a lot more of, if I’m not doing these certain habits, then I start to notice it creep back in. They have a sweet spot of if they are running their life in a certain way, things run really well. If they start to slip back towards allowing external factors to run their life for them and they’re not doing the habits that work for them, they start to notice their symptoms creep back in. There is a sweet spot, a tipping point. For a lot of women with PCOS, it actually has to do with the body composition, for a lot of women that do not have the classic PCOS, so more of a lean type or more of an inflammatory type PCOS, they may have different parameters that they find really dictate their sweet spot and the tipping point for where their hormones are, and good happy balance as compared to where they’re struggling still a little bit.
Now, you can have a really good existence with PCOS and still be a little bit off from your ideal. If you get too far off from the ideal, that’s where it’s like nothing is working. When you feel like you’re trying in your health or you’re trying really hard, but you don’t have a lot of direction and a lot of guidance as to what you should be doing, it may feel like you’re hitting your head against the wall, like you’re trying everything, nothing budges. Everything you do is just constantly keeping you stuck. It doesn’t matter how hard you work, it doesn’t matter how many things you try or how much effort you put into it, nothing’s working or nothing’s sticking or everything things so hard that’s not sustainable. When you feel like that, there is definitely root cause healing that is not happening. Once we get those hormones happier, once we move in a direction where they’re becoming closer and closer to that sweet spot, that tipping point of where you go from difficult to easy, that’s where we start to see things move along.
For me, I noticed this big time. In different ways, I feel like every time I had a baby, my hormones were almost a little different version of myself. I’ve seen this from many different angles. After baby number two, I hit a sweet spot in my body composition where I was like, I had so much energy, it was insane, I wasn’t sleeping a whole lot, I had two small children, I had two kids under the age of three. We had moved a bunch of times, and I just felt good. It was interesting because I had never quite reached that point when I was trying to get pregnant with baby number one. I got close to that point and then got pregnant. I didn’t really live at that point, whereas after baby number two, I had a really good handle on how to balance my hormones, I balanced them really quickly after baby number two was born, and I was at this really, really great place in my health for a good year and a half and really got to experience what it was like to live with that. Now, baby number three came along. I was a little older, and it hanged my hormones, after baby number 3, I found that my hormones never went up. I’ll have to tell this story more later, but I really was hitting that wall, and nothing was working, nothing was working and so it took me a couple months longer to figure out where that sweet spot was and what my body was needing. It was different from baby number 2 and baby number 1 so by the time I figured that one out, and now I would say I’m still a little bit above where the sweet spot is but oh, my goodness, the difference between hitting your head against the wall and moving in the direction towards that tipping point of where things get easier, it’s amazing. All of a sudden, it’s like, Yeah, I’m not quite at that place where I was after baby number 2 but if I put the effort in, I get the result and that’s the part where PCOS can be such a bugger, is that we can be putting in the effort and we’re not getting the result and people will look at us like, well, are you really doing that? what else are you eating that you’re not telling us about? because your food log doesn’t add up to the results that you’re getting in your life. Yeah, that’s why I’m asking for help, because PCOS and the root cause hormones do this thing to us where we just keep hitting our head against the wall and nothing is working even though we’re doing everything right, there’s a missing piece that our body is just not connecting with.
Okay, so back to Sarah’s story. Over that five months, she was just getting to a point where she felt so good. Her cycles were quite regular, she was still stressing out about them because over five months, they had become present. She was having a cycle about every month, but they were varying between about 25 to 40 days. Over five months, that’s not a lot of average to take because you’re like, Okay, it’s five cycles. Actually, it was probably about three cycles. She had one that was 25 days, one that was somewhere in the 30s, and one that was in the 40s. I don’t remember what the order was. She was a little bit frustrated I think that one was in the 30s, and then it went up to 40s, and then it was like a 20 but she felt like it was bouncing back and forth a little bit. She got a little more serious about tracking her ovulation, and we adjusted a few more things. There’s definitely periods of healing and there’s periods of maintenance, and she was definitely in a period of healing. She felt like she was getting ready to start thinking about fertility treatments, but she felt like she could still make a little more progress naturally and so she really dove into it. She’s like, For the next two months, I’m going to give it my all, I’m going to make an appointment for 2-3 months from now whenever I can get in with my schedule and start the process of seeing an infertility specialist.
So two months in, her appointment was about three months out because that’s where it worked for her schedule. At two months in, she emailed me and she said, I’m really frustrated I’m having another long cycle because she had another reasonable one, and then that second month, she was approaching 40 days. I think she was at 38 days. I said, Have you taken a pregnancy test? She said, No, I haven’t. I don’t have any at home, I took some last month when it was a little bit long, but I haven’t but I’m really just frustrated that it’s not settling in at 28 days. I said, well, first of all, 28 days is an average, no one’s exactly 28 days. I mean, some people are, but most women tend to be plus or minus a day or two here and there, somewhere plus or minus two or three days from 28 days. She’s like, Okay. I said, please go take a pregnancy test. Don’t get too hung up on it, but it’s always a good idea to at least see if that’s possible. The pregnancy test was positive, and she was just completely and totally blown away. She had never gotten a positive pregnancy test. Six rounds of Clomid periods, were still not even all that regular, in her mind she did not think this was possible at this point in time, and so she was completely floored and she, I think, took several of them. I don’t know how many, but I think she took at least five or 10 of them. I don’t remember exactly the number she said, but she took a bunch of them, she went and got the ones that are lines, the ones that are pluses, the ones that are happy faces. She’s like, I tried them all. I wanted to make sure they were all positive and she emailed me back super excited and super freaking out that now that she was pregnant, was she really in a place of health that she would be able to sustain a healthy pregnancy? It’s amazing how, again, PCOS gets in our way because we go directly from from just wanting to get pregnant to a moment or two of excitement and disbelief to immediate fear of whether or not this were healthy enough to sustain a healthy pregnancy.
And so of course, she made an appointment for OB/GYN. She did not tell friends and family for a while because she just didn’t want to… It felt almost too fragile to even talk about. She waited a little while and at the time of this recording, she is just passed into her second trimester. She’s about four months pregnant now and she is having a very smooth, successful, healthy pregnancy to date. She is pregnant with a little boy, and she is continuing. This is the most important part, I think, that because of the holistic approach, whether she had needed fertility treatments or not, the thing that I love about adjusting your lifestyle and getting in touch with your body is that as her body is going through the changes of pregnancy, and there’s so many changes during pregnancy, and as it’s preparing for motherhood, she is able to follow along with those symptoms and care for herself each step of the way and when she is in the postpartum period, she’s going to have all of the tools and things that she needs in order to continue to care for her body. I think sometimes as women, we think that our needs are important, or we know our needs are important, but at the same time, we feel like there’s so many other things that are calling for our attention but when it comes to PCOS, it can put such a damper on our mood, our energy, our ability to thrive, that I think that it’s so important for women with PCOS to have these tools at their fingertips to care for their bodies and to assist themselves in feeling their best, having their best energy, and being able to fully enjoy their journey into and becoming a mom because it’s a lot of work. It’s a It’s a huge gift, and it’s a lovely thing to get to experience but if we don’t feel our best, if we’re not in a body that’s thriving, it can really take its toll, and it can really take its toll on our ability to enjoy that special time of our life.
So I’m really thankful that Sarah was willing to share her story with all of you because I think that what I want you to take away from this story is that when we take a step back, when we give ourselves the space to allow healing to occur and we can embrace all tools and all ways of helping ourselves, there isn’t one and only right way, it doesn’t all have to be natural, we can include medical fertility treatments and things along our journey but if we are too focused on a time frame, if we’re too focused on a certain way that it has to play out, I think that Sarah really modeled well how she gave herself space. For her, she had the benefit of a blessing in disguise, had struggled early on in her 20s and so when it came time for her to get a little bit more serious as she approached her 30s, she had a clear idea of, this may not be easy for me. I want to take this very seriously, and I want to start right away once I finish graduate school so that I have some time and I don’t feel this under pressure to get pregnant this month. I have to allow my body to heal and then if it’s not getting to a point where it’s able to do this naturally, then I’m going to go ahead and ask for further medical assistance. I think that’s something where every journey is going to look different, every journey is going to have different steps and different components that we’re dealing with but if you can allow yourself some space to heal, because we don’t heal under pressure, we don’t heal under, Okay, one, two, three, now, get better. We heal with that care and nurturing that comes with a little bit of space. I think that Sarah really modeled that nicely, and I’m glad that she was willing to share her story with all of you.
As you listen to stories of women who have had some success with their PCOS, it’s easy to feel like, Oh, that’s their story. It is, it’s their story but more than it being their story, it’s an inspiration and it’s a reminder that when we find alignment with our health, with our body, when we work with our bodies to cultivate the nurturing and the nourishment and the care that we need, what we can accomplish and that change from a downward spiral to an upward spiral is a lot easier than it can feel like when we’re hitting our head against that wall where nothing’s working. If nothing else from these stories of women that are finding success with their PCOS I want you to hear that if something’s not working quite right, if something’s not working that you’ve tried, or if you feel frustrated, then it is likely because something’s not working something isn’t quite aligning for you and this is where… One of the reasons why I don’t share the particulars of what Sarah did is that this is not a cookie cutter approach. If you try to follow somebody else, this is the exact cookie cutter approach. In most programs for PCOS out there talk about, okay, do this, don’t eat that, do eat this, exercise like this and when we try to force ourselves to follow somebody else’s cookie cutter approach, one, the different root cause hormones and how they play together with our environment create such variability, one size fits all is not going to work with PCOS and then secondly, our preferences, our lifestyle, our schedule, our interests, our tastes, our dislikes, our whole entire story requires a unique approach that we have to learn how to listen to what our body needs enough that we can really be an active participant in creating our health path and not just following something that worked for somebody else.
So that’s where if you are struggling, I encourage you to seek some assistance, whether it’s just by starting to take the PCOS root cause quiz, because when you start with that, it starts to at least get you paying attention to symptoms beyond your PCOS. When you take that quiz, you’ll be surprised how I don’t really ask you, I do ask you I think about if you have irregular periods, but a lot of the questions have to do with appetite, hunger, cravings, energy, sleep patterns, and things that go deeper than just the superficial PCOS symptoms.
So with that, let this story inspire you. I hope it inspires you, I hope it reminds you that we do not have to be prisoners to our PCOS. We can get it under control, we can live a full life, we don’t have to live in this super strict health mode. We may have to be a little strict for a while during our healing period, but we can live a full and healthy, happy life where we are thriving even with PCOS.
With that, if you found this episode helpful, I hope you hit the subscribe button on your favorite listening channel so that you are reminded each and every week when a new topic of PCOS Health becomes available. Until next time, I would love to hear on Instagram what you found inspiring about Sarah’s story. Then I can share it with her privately via email because it was very generous of her to be willing to share her story here, even though she didn’t want to get on and talk. She’s like, you can just tell them what my story was about but women being willing to share their stories, it’s very vulnerable, but it’s also very empowering to other people. I really appreciate Sarah, and I would love to pass on what you found to be the most helpful. You can send me a DM over on Instagram @Nourishedtohealthy, and I look forward to hearing from you over there. Until next time, bye for now.
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