Posts Tagged ‘Breast Cancer’


…2 words that no young wife/mother wants to hear

…but through her journey, Tarah is holding strong and depending on her savior.

You’ll be so encouraged as you read this part of her journey. 

…and yes, please keep her on your prayer list. The few weeks will be tough ones.

It’s been over two months since I’ve written an in-depth update, and for those that follow my updates closely, I truly do apologize.  The truth is, I don’t like to complain that much.  I don’t want my friends and family hear the incessant whining that so often going ’round and ’round in my head.  And, even now as I’m writing this, I feel guilty.  The last two months haven’t been all torture.  Well, physically, it has been close, but God has done some pretty awesome things that continue to remind me that He’s in the forefront of this battle.  For so long I felt like Satan was all up in my face, staring dead into my eyes, and just daring me to be the one to look away first.  I haven’t yet, but I feel like God kicked him out of my range of sight for a while. 

Well, let me give y’all a physical rundown.  On March 12, we started the new round of chemo at MD Anderson.  Each round was so strong that I could only have it every three weeks.  On top of the intravenously administered chemo, I’ve been taking a pill type of chemo.  Each one has been rearing its ugly head more and more in terms of side effects.  First was the allergic reaction that I have each time, which involves a poison-ivy-like rash that shows up on my arms, then goes away just in time for the next dose. Then my fingers started going numb.  They gradually got worse and worse until the point that they’re at now, which is that my pinky is the only finger that can feel texture.  Obviously my fingers still work, because I’m typing, but it’s little things.  Like, I can’t tell if I’m holding small objects.  Yesterday, I went to hand my mother a bandage that I needed her help putting on, only to realize that I had dropped it several steps back.  It’s really pretty funny.  There are some non-funny ones, too.  Each of my toenails are being held on by good wishes and band-aids.  There are others that I won’t tell you about. 

My chemo was only supposed to be four rounds.  Last week we went in for all of my testing and it all showed that the chemo has worked magnificently!  At one point, I was scared it wasn’t…I asked my doctor about it and he said “It had better work.  Because there isn’t a stronger chemo to put you on – you’re getting the strongest!”  But, it did work.  More specifically, the tumor that was one big orange-sized 9.5cm ball, is now in small pieces, the biggest of which is only 2.4cm!  God worked a miracle right there already!!! 

The issue that remains is that the cancer in the breast tissue is still pretty bad.  That’s why I have to have at least one more chemo.  I couldn’t have it last week because my side effects were getting too severe they were worried about serious damage, so I have to wait a week (until this Thursday, June 9th), to have my next chemo.  After that, I meet with my surgeon on the 22nd, who will then schedule the surgery for the following week.  If he doesn’t schedule it by the 30th, I will have to have another chemo then. 

It’s pretty amazing to see what God’s doing through me and my situation.  There have already been so many people who have been touched one way or another by the way God’s taking care of me and my family.  I don’t know if you all remember my first posts or if you’ve googled “Inflammatory Breast Cancer”, but I think that it’s the furthest thing from fun that ever existed.  It’s really hard not to complain sometimes.  Heck, it’s hard not to burst into tears sometimes.  But, God’s working on something.  The lesson He’s teaching me: Just keep looking forward.  It doesn’t matter how I was diagnosed or how rare this is or how spectacular that is; that’s just the more spectacular God’s show is going to be in the end. 

I’m getting really tired now (which is beyond normal lately), so I’ll try to update more often. I apologize that I haven’t.  I pray every day that God blesses every one of you as much as He will.  I love y’all!!!

God bless!!


You may follow Tarah’s story here:

Read Part 1: A PINK CHRISTMAS here…

Read Part 2: Round 1 of Her Fight here…

Read Part 3: A Few Bad Days here…

Read Part 4: My Perfect Life here…

Read Part 5: My Life, The Sermon here…

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Faith over Cancer!

Positive Attitude over Cancer!

I have been adding posts about my friend, Tarah.

This morning she so inspired me …this was her facebook post this morning after a long day of tests yesterday:

On my way to MD Anderson to see how much cancer is left and to get my last chemo. I’m not gonna pray that the cancer be gone. I pray that, no matter what, God’s will be done. If it’s His will that all the cancer be gone, that’s the awesomest thing!! If it’s His Will that I continue to fight, I’m in.


Would you take some time to pray for this young mother, Tarah, today? 

You may follow Tarah’s story here:

Read Part 1: A PINK CHRISTMAS here…

Read Part 2: Round 1 of Her Fight here…

Read Part 3: A Few Bad Days here…

Read Part 4: My Perfect Life here…

Read Part 5: My Life, The Sermon here…

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For the past several months I have been sharing you an awful …but incredible journey that my friend, Tarah Powell is traveling through. She’s a Woman of God, a Wife, a Mom, a Daughter, a Sister, a Missionaries Kid …all these things …but what is consuming her life right now is:


…as I’m typing those words 0ut, even now, the thought makes me cringe inside. She’s so young, she’s so vibrant, she has a beautiful son …how can this be happening.

But then I read her blog post and I am blown away on the peace and joy she has going thru this difficult challenge. She’s honest, it’s pretty tough at times as you can imagine but she is totally relying on God to restore her and to take care of her every step of this journey.

Here are the words from Tarah’s latest blog post – I hope you are uplifted and encouraged …and motivated to pray for her daily.

Well, it’s been WAY too long since my last update; a lot has happened in over a month!  I’m sorry for not getting everyone better informed; and I’m sorry if anyone was worried!

 We went to MD Anderson last month; my doctor there concurred with all that my doctor here has said and done.  He suggested that I continue through my chemo here and go up there for my surgery and radiation once my chemo is done.  My last chemo treatment will be April 13, as long as all goes as planned, and then I’ll have my surgery a few weeks after that and start radiation a few weeks after THAT.  My radiation oncologist is pretty sure I will have to do twice daily radiation treatments for five weeks because of the aggressive nature of my cancer, so that will be hard.  It’s a forty-five minute drive up there with no traffic, and the sessions have to be a minimum of 6 hours apart, so I’d have to go first thing in the morning, come back to work for a while, then go back.  That’s the plan anyway….I’ll need prayer. =)  I had to have a mammogram, ultrasound and MRI to get a “starting point” image for each one.  MD Anderson has a whole clinic specifically for Inflammatory Breast Cancer, so it’s pretty great to gain their knowledge and to contribute to their research, and get a better grasp on what others have gone through.  Even still, only 10 of every 150 of their patients are under the age of 30.

I started my 2nd round of treatment (Taxol/Herceptin) at the end of January, and so far it’s been worse than the first “hard drugs” round.  They say it’s because all of the chemo has just been accumulating in my body – building up more and more, so it can get worse over time.  The hardest things are the nausea and fatigue, but especially the unpredictability of when it’s gonna hit.  It’s different every single day, and every single week, so it’s getting harder and harder to plan for anything…even going to work.  Thankfully, I have the most supportive bosses and co-workers ever!  I know they’re all having to work harder to cover for me, and they’re doing it without complaints.  I wish I could do more, but for now….thank you, ladies.  Besides, God is working with me; I got more hours put in over the last two weeks than I have since I was diagnosed!  So, He’s definitely helping me push through, even if I have to work from home! 

The chemo is really starting to take a toll on my body.  I look more and more like a chemo patient every day, although God uses perfect strangers, wonderful friends on FB, and my awesome family to tell me otherwise every single day. =)

Last week, my White Blood Cell (WBC) count was too low to get my treatment: it was 0.8 on a scale of 3.5-10.0. In order to get it up, they had to give me a fast-acting booster shot called Neupagen, which pulls WBCs directly from my bone marrow, starting at the biggest bones in my body.  This was extremely painful.  It was about 5 or 6 hours of me writhing, crying and screaming out in pain.  We were crying out to God for SOME relief, and finally I was able to fall asleep and woke up in much, MUCH less pain.  But, I was able to get my treatment the next day!!!  That was Wednesday. 

The funny thing is, my mom wasn’t supposed to get here until Wednesday night, but because of the bad weather in Dallas, she came down a day early.  My son and husband had the flu and had to stay away from me, so if it weren’t for the bad weather in Dallas, I wouldn’t have had my mom here to help me through it.  God’s funny like that.

God’s teaching me new levels of faith and trust and new ways to pray.  I call out to Him countless times every day, about every little thing…just seeking his guidance.  In some ways, it’s easier to put all of your faith in Him when you have no choice (there’s a sermon in there, Pastors), but in a lot of ways, it’s harder because I’m surrounded by physical distractions whose sole purpose is to bring me down.  And, let me say, they can be pretty overwhelming!  Not only my own physical issues, but my family’s, too.

It was miserable seeing my son so sick last week.  Any parent can agree that it is just the worst feeling in the world when your child is sick and you’re practically useless to make it go away.  I can’t imagine what my parents must be going through; how frustrated and useless they must be feeling that they can’t fix me and make it all go away.  As a family….no-as a missionary family, we have had our faith tested over and over and over.  We stood strong through death threats and going into hiding, through stalking and repeated break-ins, through getting stones thrown at us and churches lit on fire that we were in, through death and loneliness.  And, then, in my adult life, they were with me through scarlet fever, depression, car accidents (yes, plural), a very difficult pregnancy, gallstones, financial troubles…..and breast cancer.  God is my Rock and my Light, but my family is my foundation. 


It also helps that I have such an awesome support system.  I know that God would not have chosen me to go through this if He didn’t think I could handle it.  For SOME reason, He deems me worthy enough to live the awesome miracle that He’s going to do…and I’m honored.  Its hard, it’s VERY hard to stay positive 24/7, but I’m doing pretty good at looking to God in the really hard times.  And when I’m not, my wonderful husband, or my wonderful parents, or my wonderful sister or brother, or my wonderful friends point me in the right direction.

I am surrounded by the best people who love me and love God!  My parents, my sister, my brother, my couldn’t-ask-for-better-in-laws, my wonderful co-workers, my wonderful FB family…and my perfect husband who gave me the perfect son!

 And my Perfect God has control over my not-so-perfect cancer, and THAT is what makes my life….pretty perfect! 

SPECIAL NOTE:  Thank you all SO SO SO SO much for your endless words of encouragement, prayers, thoughts, and love!  Even though I may be too sick or tired to answer, please know that I read them almost immediately from my phone and they ALWAYS, without fail, make me smile.  So, thank you for sending me smiles!  I love you all so much and I promise not to take so long to write again.

Read Part 1: A PINK CHRISTMAS here…

Read Part 2: Round 1 of Her Fight here…

Read Part 3: A Few Bad Days here…

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Round 1 of Her Fight…

Last month I posted the start of Tarah’s battle with Breast Cancer (A PINK CHRISTMAS)

…today we’re continuing her journey:

Last night, as I was reading my devotional in my new “Breast Cancer Awareness” Bible that my mom got for me, I was drawn to a Scripture on the page next to the devotional that I was reading.  It was completely unrelated to my devotional, and I just know that God directed my eyes toward it.  It was Romans 12:21: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Now, this principle is nothing new to me; it’s a pretty basic Christian philosophy.  It ties in with a lot of other basic Christian philosophies: “Love your neighbor”, “Turn the other cheek”, “Don’t let Satan bring you down”, (Obviously paraphrasing a little.) etc.  But, over the course of the last month or so, I’ve learned that there are many forms of evil.  Or, more accurately, that evil comes at you in many forms.  It comes at you emotionally, mentally, spiritually and, of course, physically.  Evil can come at you through people – people who Satan uses to bring you down.  I work at the Lake Jackson Municipal Court.  If you have ever gotten a speeding ticket, you know that you have 10 days to contact the court to let them know if you’re going to pay the ticket or take defensive driving….well, I’m one of the people you would come to.  Last Monday, I tried going back to work.  I even almost made it a full day before I got so dizzy that I had to have my husband come and pick me up.  Right before I left for my lunch hour, a man came in who must have been in his mid-sixties.  He handed me his defensive driving certificate and started to walk out.  I told him to give me a minute, as I needed to make sure he was within his deadline before I could accept it.  It turns out that he wasn’t within his deadline.  The judge had even granted him an extension, but he didn’t complete the course until two days after his deadline.  I told him that I was sorry, but that after the judge grants an extension, there’s nothing I can do.  He started yelling (which is not unusual) about how he has been in and out of the hospital with emphysema and simply couldn’t get it done in time.   I apologized again and told him that I was sure that the judge took that into consideration when he was granted the extension.  The man then said, “I pray to God that he gives you an incurable disease and you have to take this stupid class so that you have to go through what I’ve had to go through!”  I responded, “Well, Sir, it just so happens that I’ve just been diagnosed with an incurable breast cancer, and I DO have to take defensive driving next month, so I guess I will have to go through what you’ve been through.”  He answered, “Good.” before he turned and left.   I was so angry that I was literally shaking on my way home on my lunch break.  I was just so MAD that there are some people in this world who can be so utterly cruel over something as simple as a speeding ticket!  Once I calmed down, I realized that Satan through this man in my path to try to bring down the joy that God had already given me that day, through a HUGE act of kindness from my co-workers.  It shames me that it worked, even for a few minutes.  But, believe that I’ll be ready the next time Satan tries to steal my joy! 

Aside from the evil, I’ve also learned in the last month or so that good comes in many more forms.  Good comes from people you barely know showing you humbling amounts of love and generosity, or people you don’t know at all sending you a card just to say that they’re praying.  Good comes from random strangers telling you that you’re beautiful or from your son rubbing your cheek and saying “I love you, Mommy!”  Good comes from a sympathetic smile, an understanding nod, an “I’ll pray for you.” or just from a hug.  God has surrounded me with overwhelming acts of love and kindness and generosity and goodness that it has been really hard to pay the evil any mind.

I owe that to all of the people who God has surrounded me with.  I thank Him every single day for giving me those people, because they are going to play a huge part in my day-to-day attitude.

The day-to-day part has already started getting kind of tough.  My first chemo treatment was on December 1st.  Afterward, the first few days were just some random nausea and dizziness – kind of like morning sickness, but I never actually vomited. Around the 4th or 5th day, it was mainly just dizziness and fatigue, but it’d come on so suddenly without any warning! I would literally be sitting, playing with my son on the floor, and lay my head down on the couch and be asleep! I’d wake up 30 seconds later, feeling completely refreshed and ready to go! I started losing my taste for stuff almost immediately, but it’s gotten progressively worse every day. I got some V8 fruit drinks and Ensure shakes to make sure I at least have something in my stomach when I can’t force anything else down. The 2nd treatment was worse, but kicked in a little later. The first couple days after the 2nd treatment were totally fine! Hardly any symptoms at all except for fatigue. When the dizziness and nausea hit, they hit hard! I actually DID vomit that time, and I’ve had to start taking daily naps. I tried to keep working, at least a few hours from home, but between the symptoms and the stress of not getting any work done because of the symptoms, I was causing myself too much stress and pain that my doc told me to take a couple of weeks off. Since then, all of my symptoms have toned down except for the pain.  When I saw my doctor last, on December 21st, she said that a lot of the pain is coming from the tumor “nucrosing” or liquefying as it dies, and all of the excess fluid builds up and swells.  So, I’m in pain because my tumor is dying!  This is awesome news, but I have to force myself to be happy about being in so much pain.  Honestly, a small part of me wishes it were some kind of infection that we could treat and then move on pain-free.   But, the bigger part of me is extremely grateful that I am able to have this pain, because it’s a confirmation that the chemo is working!  Other types of breast cancer, or any cancer for that matter, have no way to indicate whether or not the chemo is working. They just have to go through their treatments hoping and praying, and then have another PET scan at the end to see how much, if any, of their cancer was killed.  So, I THANK GOD that I’m in pain, and I THANK GOD that I have a rare, painful kind of cancer. 

My hair started falling out last Monday, December 20th, which was exactly 2 1/2 weeks after my first chemo treatment. As you may know, I had already gotten rid of most of it, but I didn’t want to look like I had mange, so I asked my hubby to shave the rest of it. And, you know what? It wasn’t sad! I thank God for my husband and my sister for helping me make a sad thing into a fun group shaving party!

The worst thing about all of this is the frustration. I hate not knowing what’s coming. I hate being up and cleaning the house and have to sit down every few minutes to steady myself. I hate not being able to look at the computer for too long, because it makes me wanna hurl. I HATE not being able to work; regardless of how awesome and understanding the women are that I work with, I was raised to do my job and do it to the best of my ability and it irks me that my ability has been diminished. I’m not quite a control freak, but I like being in control nonetheless, so the hardest part of this for me has been to remind myself over and over and over that it’s okay that I’m not in control,….because God is!

God has given me the Scripture Isaiah 55:8-9 through two different sources; it says “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways…”  This reminds me that God’s Will, thoughts, plans, and love are completely out of our world!  We try so hard to see and understand God’s Plan and purpose for us, but we just can’t!  There is no way we could ever understand the intricate steps He’s always planned for us, or the ones He has in store.  So, why try?  He’ll show me what I need to see when I need to see it.  I just have to pray that I’m ready and able to recognize it when it comes and act on it in pure, courageous faith!

Tomorrow, I have my 3rd chemo treatment.  I’m learning that it doesn’t matter what I expect, because every day is different.  I just pray that I have a good day full of laughs and smiles!  THANK YOU ALL for your continual prayer and support!  I love hearing from everyone about what God’s doing in your life, so please keep the messages coming!  They bring me so much joy and comfort!  Thank you all again for keeping me in your hearts and God bless you all throughout the New Year!!!


Please take time today to pray for Tarah and all those you know fighting this disease.

Read Part 1: A PINK CHRISTMAS here…

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Tarah is 3rd from left

a PINK Christmas

…we had one last year as my great-niece, Reese, arrived on December 10th. We celebrated the month with PINK everything! What a PINK celebration that was!

But for The Powell family this year their PINK Christmas is has a different focus …but it’s not stealing their JOY!


…those words that just make you shutter when you hear them. Especially if you’re a vibrant 27-year-old wife and mother.

A few short weeks ago, Tarah, found out she had cancer and she is journaling her journey through this dreadful disease.

I’ll be sharing this journey as it unfolds…

and you will be amazed at her attitude, her faith, and her courage. She is as beautiful with her shaved head as she was with her full head of hair – and her smile will not be made into a frown.

Please pray for her and her family – they are expecting a MIRACLE …will you expect one with them?


It’s occurred to me that many of you may not know the story of how I found out that I have cancer and I thought it might be informative and a little therapeutic for me to get it down on paper.  First, I’d like to say “I’m sorry” that this is just now occurring to me and as such has likely left many of you guys that are close to me in the dark.  And being the awesome friends and family that you are, you don’t want to ask me in case it might get me upset.  I’ll take this opportunity to say that I do not have ANY problems talking about what I’m going through.  Even if you just wanna call me and cry and say “This sucks.”, please do.  It helps me too. 

So, around Halloween, I started noticing a change in my right breast; a little discomfort, a little swelling, nothing major.  I thought it was just a new PMS symptom that my late-20s body may be going through.  I even googled it and found out that a lot of women have a complete change in their PMS symptoms in their mid-to-late-20s.  I talked to my husband and my mom about what was going on, both of whom said that I needed to go to the doctor – what would it hurt to ask?  So, the 2nd week of November, I went to my OB, who sent me in for an ultrasound.  The radiologists and my OB thought that it was an infection, and put me on antibiotics.  (Come to find out this is an extremely common mis-diagnosis for this particular kind of cancer.) A week later, I went back to my OB because the pain and swelling was just getting worse.  This was at 3:45pm on Thursday, November 18th.  She sent me over to a general surgeon for a 2nd opinion on whether or not it was an infection.  After a small procedure with a very large needle, he determined that the only course of action was to go in for a biopsy the following morning: a mammogram was out of the question because of the pain and the swelling, and  another ultrasound wouldn’t tell us any more than the first one did. He was very good at explaining the whole of the situation. He said it’s likely that it is some kind of abscess, but he needed to get in there and biopsy some of the inflamed tissue to rule out the possibility of breast cancer.  Because of my age and the complete lack of breast cancer in my family history, my chances were about 5% or less that it was cancer.  This was about 4:30pm. He ticked off the hospital staff and my insurance company by scheduling the biopsy for 8:00a.m. the following morning.

I left his office, called my husband and my parents, who left Dallas immediately to drive 5 hours to be with me that night and during my surgery. 

Luckily, both of my parents and my husband, and some of my wonderful in-laws were with me in the hospital when I woke up from surgery.  With my husband on my left, my mom on my right, and my dad at the foot of the bed, they told me that it was cancer.  I have no idea why, but I thought they were kidding.  That was my first thought.  Then I looked in their eyes and knew that they weren’t.  

The rest of that weekend was a blur.  I made phone calls, wrote e-mails, requested prayer from everyone I could think of and got some from people and places all over the world.  Over it all, God gave me a peace just as He has every day so far that HE is not only in control of this situation, but HE wouldn’t have let this happen to me if I couldn’t handle it.  This wasn’t a shock to Him…to us, yes…to Him, no.  He has been planning for years for me and my family to be in a place where we CAN handle this.  So many things that have happened to us over the last few years that have not made sense to us have just been stepping-stones to getting us where we needed to be.  Now, it’s, like, “Oh, that’s why you wanted us to move down here!  So that we’re 40 minutes from the best cancer hospital in the world! Gotcha!”

The next week was a blur of doctors appointments, pathology reports, PET/CT Scan, and Thanksgiving! Monday morning before I went to meet my oncologist, I received a call from a very close pastor friend of my family’s.  He told me that he’d been praying all weekend for God to give him something to say to me and that morning, He did.  He told him three things: 1 – I’m not going to die.  2. – I’m about to go through 10 months of a very difficult journey, and 3 – at the end of that journey, I will know what God’s purpose is for my life.  The comfort I’ve gotten from these three things are inexplicable.  I had faith that God was going to take care of me, but it’s always good to get a confirmation on living.  And, he let me know that it even though it’s going to be a rough 10 months, He will be with me every step of the way. I went to meet my oncologist right after that phone call, and she gave me the partial results from the pathology report that had come in so far: Stage 3. She lined out a course of treatment: about 7 months of chemo, then surgery, about a month to recover from that before about six weeks of daily radiation treatments. In other words, about 10 months of treatment.  This was Monday, November 22nd.

Given that it was Stage 3, my odds for it reoccurring in the first 5 years after we beat it this time, were about 80%.  For this reason, doctors suggest having a bilateral mastectomy, and possibly a hysterectomy to bring those odds down as far as we can.  But, after those 5 years, if it doesn’t come back, I would have been considered cured.  So, I figured, “Ok, we’ll just pray for that!” After my PET/CT Scan (on Wednesday, November 24th) and the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, I went in for a follow-up with my oncologist to go over everything in more detail now that we had all of the test results back.  She told me that when she went in to do her own study of my PET/CT results with her radiologists, she found that the cancer had spread to some lymph nodes that the initial radiologists missed.  We knew that it had gone to some under my arm and towards my other breast, but they were fairly “typical” for this type of cancer.  The ones that she found it in, however, were not.  Essentially, the only way the cancer could have gotten to these lymph nodes is through the blood stream, and once cancer travels that way once, it can again….and again….and again.  This bumped me to Stage 4…and, there is no Stage 5.  This means that no matter how long I may be in remission, it can always come back, and the odds of it coming back are closer to 99-100%.  So, now, God’s got a SERIOUS miracle to do!  When God heals me completely, there is not going to be a single person who can doubt that HE is the one who did it! 


We’ve gotten a 2nd opinion on my current course of treatment, and have gotten confirmations from two expert oncologists that I am currently undergoing the most aggressive form of chemo there is.  I also have an appointment in January to double-check the results of my PET/CT Scan to see if we can get a second opinion on the 3rd or 4th Stage. 

My cancer is Inflammatory Breast Cancer.  I just turned 27-years-old, have no family history, and did nothing in my life that could have caused it. It’s an extremely aggressive form of cancer that grew from nothing to over 5cm in something like 2 months, and I can literally feel it battling against the chemo every day.   It’s a random genetic mutation that happens to, apparently, 3-5% of the female population, and I just happen to be REALLY unique!  🙂  I may have to wait a few more years to get “reconstructive surgery”, I may not be able to have any more kids, I may have to go through this again one day, but I have a God who loves me, who knew that this was going to happen, and who prepared me for it in every way He could.  I have a wonderful husband that God tailor-made for me, the perfect little 3-year-old boy who reminds me every single day to laugh, and a family who loves me and supports me and will do anything in their power to be here with me. 

Things could be SO much worse!


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