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I'm Only Human

I write this post today to share with you my imperfections, challenges, and personal struggles that I've been going through.  I understand being open puts me at risk for people to judge me.  Some will love me, some may hate me.  That's what makes the world interesting, right?  Life would be too dull if everyone shared the same opinions and personalities.  We simply can't relate to everyone.  I often have to remind myself that pleasing everyone is a battle that can't be won.

This year has been packed full of changes for me.  Some very good, exciting, and many challenging.  My first change was an experiment with my foods.  I decided to take 100% animals out of my diet and see how I could survive on a healthy mostly gluten free vegan lifestyle.  During my experiment I researched the hell out of plant based living and thriving without animal proteins.  After all I was eating close to a Primal/Paleo type lifestyle before embarking on this journey.  It was quite a shift for me to base my foods around mostly plants, nuts, seeds, and fruits.  During my 6 months of vegan living I went through many shifts.   I felt extremely energetic at times and other times I'd feel lethargic.  My body began to start craving eggs, then fish, then free range poultry and finally grass fed meats.   Very slowly I introduced eggs back in my diet, then fish.   I was unable to add anything else.  I ended up seeing too much of what happens with animals before we eat them.  I already knew what happened behind closed doors at animal factories, but I didn't quite know to the extent of what I know now.  My compassion for animals became so overwhelming to the point I was ignoring my body signaling me to eat some meat.  I let this craving go and continued to tell myself that it's just a craving and I am at the point where I'm too grossed out to eat flesh of a dead animal.  It was even difficult for me to eat eggs and fish without feeling weird about it.  After all, I was surviving very well without it.  My skin got smoother and more radiant during my vegan days.  I also had such great role models thriving off of Vegan living.  Some even raw vegan!  Rock star strong figures like Mike Mahler, Jon Hinds, Ellen Stein, Melody Schoenfield, Robert Cheeke, Rich Rolls, Brendan Brazier,  Mimi Kirk and many other inspirations who are walking the walk.  I had to remind myself that we are all different. What works well for some will not work well for everyone.  I came to terms and allowed myself to be flexible.  After 8 months of no animal flesh I nibbled on some organic free range chicken.  I sat by myself feeling a little guilty and chewed the flesh very well.  It only took 1 ounce until I felt I had enough.  My brain and belly felt very content after.  My heart felt guilty.  I felt bad for the chicken and I also felt as if I was letting my vegan/vegetarian friends down.    After all, many people surrounding me transformed their own eating to animal free living because of my influence.  They told me how much they love plant based eating.  They described more energy and just enjoyed the lifestyle overall.  They also expressed compassion about animals along the way.   Currently I find myself eating vegan throughout the day without even thinking about it.  It's just what my body is naturally driven to.    Evenings I mostly eat vegetarian but will mix in an occasional egg, fish or piece of chicken once or twice a month.  For over a year I haven't consumed any red meat.  If I can get over the fact that it is flesh from a cute cow,  I will make sure my first bite is from a humanely treated and grass fed cow.   Red meat cravings have been happening on a weekly basis so I may have to act upon it at some point in the near future.

 What I learned with this experiment is that I do best on a mostly plant based diet.  If I have a craving for some animal protein it's okay to have it, but I don't need much.  I can no longer call myself a pure vegan, pure vegetarian or even a pescetarian.  If I had to classify myself at the moment I would fall in the category of a flexitarian.  I know I'm letting some people down.   I had some emails written by excited vegans telling me how happy they were that I was eating that way.  I made sure to call it an experiment to not classify myself in any category.  I have made some amazing discoveries and friends with stepping over in to vegan land.  Discovered amazing ways to eat, cook and survive without a drop of animal protein.  I don't regret this experience I had.  I have also learned that there are wars and extreme judgements in the various eating cultures.  Horrible things said to one another between meat eaters and vegan/vegetarian eaters.  I was surprised to find arguments and insults thrown back between the raw vegan, high fat vegan, low fat vegan, and fruitarian communities!  I understand people are extremely passionate about their beliefs.  I have learned to keep my beliefs to myself in social situations unless someone asks me and wants my honest opinion.  All in all, any eating lifestyle that has this much judgement on someone else's lifestyle is exhausting and I choose to live in my own category.  Eat what my body feels like, the end!

Switching gears I wanted to open up and discuss some bumps in the road I have experienced.   This year I have had a number of interesting things happen.  The crazy thing is I can't even recall exactly how it happened.  However, I believe much of it stems from stress and hormone imbalance, which I'm still working on.  This year I've had my hand in a cast, then followed by a torn ligament in my wrist.  My training has definitely lacked consistency due to these little injuries to start with.

I have been experiencing pain in my pelvic and lower abdominal area for over 6 months.  In addition my stomach would puff out to the point that I'd look pregnant and it was really uncomfortable.   Even with the strictest eating regimen including fasting, my stomach would stay the same.  I knew it wasn't food.   Finally I went to an OBGYN.  If this is too much information, feel free to stop reading.  After a thorough exam she found a mass in my uterus.  I was sent to radiology where they found a fibroid tumor embedded in my uterus.  The doctor gave me several "solutions".  Her first solution was to give me a hysterectomy.  She actually asked me if I was done having kids.  I was floored by the question and I immediately told her, "I'm 32 years old and I don't think I'm ready to shut the door on that one yet."  Next option was to have it taken out via surgery, which is similar to having another C-section.   Her least invasive option was to scrape it out, yet leaving it to grow back.  Really none of the options were something I was ready to face.   This fibroid is pushing against my stomach causing a lovely domino effect of issues.  The beauty of this news is it's not life threatening as we know.  The disheartening part of this news is that my abs that I had are not my abs anymore. I am uncomfortable quite a bit.  I share this information with you admitting that my body is far from where I'd like it to be.  Thoughts that went through my mind were the fact that I was getting ready to do a complete photo shoot for my book in 2 weeks, then film Kettlebell Lightning DVD with Alex.  There was absolutely nothing I could do about it.  I couldn't hide it so here I am showing my imperfections to the world.   It's no secret!  The body I am carrying around is not one that I have strived for.  Reminding myself that this is temporary is what keeps me sane.  I plan on getting to the bottom of this and working towards naturally shrinking this fibroid, while dealing with my possible hormone imbalances.

It was very tempting to cancel important projects and hide.  After all I didn't have the same "look" that I had.  Mentally I was tired from this burden.  Then I thought to myself, I'm only human.    It's a bump in the road like anything.  I will learn how to deal with it, get through it, and move on like I always do.  The only difference is I will not let it stand in the way of projects that I already made commitments to.  That would mean I would be quitting if I hid out and dropped everything.   The world is just going to have to see that I am far from perfect and have issues as well.  I am not here to teach people to be perfect and be someone I'm not.  I will not put on a fake bubbly smile and entertain you with cheesiness.  I am here to teach people to be better, give them strength, confidence, motivation, and show them if I can do it, they can do it.  I will not sugar coat anything.  This is me:  a wife, mother, loyal friend, business owner, writer, creator, teacher, lover of kettlebells, snowboarding, and people. I'm a woman and most of all human. 

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Anonymous said…
Beautifully written! Hope you feel 100% soon. You are wonderful!
Anonymous said…
Thanks Lauren, I recognise many of those highs and lows myself and it's good to read that you are fighting back.

Many vegans I know will be pretty uncompromising but, having been through a similar journey myself over the last 30 years I think you have found a healthy approach to eating that you can live with. I've been vegan, vegetarian, free range meat eating and then back to vegetarain again. At present no foods are banned, I mostly choose to eat vegetarain happily and this is easy to maintain.

I've also had fibroids-fortunately not until my mid-forties when I'd finished having children. So the choice to ignore was an easy one. This is a much harder choice for you, do what you think is right for you. Those who judge have not walked in your shoes.I hope all goes well and you are back swinging kettlebells with the energy you had before!
Lee's Bread said…
I had the same fibroid problem. I had all of it removed through my lower abdomen when I was 45. It was the hardest decision for me to make in my life. Because I was fit, my recovery was incredibly fast. What helped me choose which surgery option was being severely anemic and more importantly finding out about my family's cancer history that I had none nothing about. My heart reaches out for you, Lauren!
SJ said…
Oh honey, I teared up reading that. You have had such a journey. Your strength in being who you are, trying new things and encouraging others to do the same is the energy that draws people to you. Being honest with others about my own health issues has lead me to find that so many others suffer in so many ways. I hope that your wonderful outlook, your family, and all the energy from those who have been inspired by you continue to keep you strong into the future. Thanks for being there for us!
Loved this Lauren! What you choose to eat is your business. No one has the right to judge you. You have to do what is right for you and not feel guilty about it. The older I get, the more I realize that other people's opinion of me doesn't matter and the other way around. It's like religion and politics. I don't need to be convinced of your views or for you to change me mind and I have no place trying to change anyone else's mind about anything. As far as the injuries; I am going through the same thing! All in just a couple of months I went from working out, getting strong to a broken foot (in a cast) and extreme pain in my shoulders that I can't even lift my arms. It comes and goes so I doubt it's a tear. It's been suggested to me that it's stress and hormone related. I thought I was bullet proof with my workouts and strength, but I think my injuries came from something internal. It really sucks! Last but not least, I don't even know you personally, but I do know that you are a woman that is in incredible shape, beautiful and also human. Accept where you are are part of your journey. Use it to inspire others and move on. I hope that you don't get a lot of people saying your injuries are coming from what you decided to eat or not eat. I have a feeling, you are going to hear a lot of that. Thanks for sharing. You are not alone!
Fliss said…
you still are inspirational Lauren to so many people. You dont need to justify anything to anyone, it is clear to see from all I have read you strive to do your best what more can you do.... nothing. Stay strong and I hope you get better soon. I will continue to read what you have to teach me, watch the videos and practice what I have learned you will always be an inspiration xx fliss xxx
Anonymous said…
You are an inspiration to me and a great teacher! Take care and I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.
Janice Decker
Jaya said…
Lauren, I purchased your Baby Bells DVD to add a little variety to my training during pregnancy - and so far it's going great! I was definitely skeptical of fitness "products" but I have always admired your philosophies...and physique! That said, the mark of a continuing evolving expert isn't entirely manifest in how your body looks and although I'm sure you still look incredible, I will keep supporting your business and nagging my friends to read your blog because you have an authenticity and humility about you that is rare in your industry. An ambassador for health is someone whose interests transcend aesthetics, and you are definitely a strong spokesperson for a holistic model of health. I wish you all the very best and I hope that you get back to feeling wonderful soon. Thank you for your candor - if anything, it makes you better at what you do and even more inspiring!
dina said…
Thanks for sharing Lauren! I have struggled with the same this year (as you know)... Just yesterday I went to teach class which I haven't done in months and I assumed everyone was looking at my middle section. It was once very flat and now at times looks bloated and puffy due to my 3 months in the hospital and absorption issues. My middle section doesn't look the same as when I rocked a bikini last year. Then I thought oh well. Like you I help so many people achieve the body they desire and always push my clients to put their health first. Exactly what I have to do at this time. I cannot worry about a softer middle when my first priority is living a healthy lifestyle, being a mom & wife. Your post couldn't have come at a better time for me. Hugs- one of your biggest fans, Dina Juve
Such a wonderful and inspiring post, Lauren! My opinion is that anyone who judges you should take a good look at themselves instead. I too suffer from hormonal imbalances that make my body not look and feel the way I'd like or think it should. It definitely can be frustrating at times, but the reality that I keep reminding myself is that even if I'm not 100% happy with the way I look, I am still lean, fit and healthy. Thank you your candor and for all that you do for our kettlebell and fitness community.
Katherine said…
Wow! I feel like I could have written this blog post myself. We're walking parallel paths.

I've been debating eating meat again (for health issues, anemia) after not eating red meat for 30+ years or poultry/pork for 20+ years. I struggle with some of the same emotional issues that you do. Do what YOU need to do and don't worry about others. You're putting this food into YOUR body and it's your choice, not anyone else's. If someone judges you for it, well, they have bigger issues and had better take a deeper look at themselves instead of judging you.

I've also just been diagnosed with fibroids for the second time. The first time when I was 40 I had them removed surgically through a C-section incision. One of the masses was unidentifiable and the doc thought it was my ovary so it could not be removed laparoscopically. I was in peak physical condition. That works to your benefit. I was out of the hospital in two days and back to work in two weeks. Full recovery took a bit longer. I have no doubt you will recover quickly, too, and be back at it at in full Lauren mode or better because of your experiences!

The one thing that has me concerned, however, is your doc recommending a hysterectomy right out of the gate! That's major surgery and it should be the last option, not the first. Unless you really trust your doc I'd get a second opinion.

Everyone goes through ups and downs in life, both emotionally and physically. It's awesome that you shared this with so many. I struggled with doing the same and am tentatively blogging about these very issues myself. My blog is so new I doubt anyone is reading it, but it took a lot of guts to post what I have so far so I understand how much courage it took for you to publish this post. I admire the hell out of you, Lauren!

Best of health to you!
Kettlbell Lover said…
If you only knew how many of your fans/followers/customers out here in the real world can so totally relate to you now - you'd probably be amazed. The fitness world seems to be chock full of perfect people who can't understand why the imperfect masses can't just get it together. Inevitably they're young hard-bodies who just haven't lived long enough to hit the brick wall of reality - real life hasn't happened to them yet is all.

Fitness is not one-size-fits-all. With a perfect body with perfect hormones/endocrine system/joints/muscles, following most exercise programs and diet plans would achieve "perfect people" bodies. So many people have challenges, though, as you are finding out. Reading books or watching videos of the perfect people telling you what you're doing "wrong" is so disheartening when you're doing the best you can and you still look more like Elmer Fudd than like a supermodel.

Please don't give up. Take this challenge and do something with it. Help other people find their way through real life challenges. Be imperfect and revel in it. You'll help so many people if you do.

As for the vegan/non-vegan thing, no offense, but most of the world doesn't care one way or another what you eat or don't eat. I certainly don't. :)
vmichelle said…
Thanks for sharing. I just want to share a little personal experience on the female front. I was diagnosed with endometriosis (different than fibroids, but has some similarities)at the age of 29 by my regular old OBGYN. Seeking a second opinion was the best thing I've ever done. I went to a fertility specialist (who ironically enough, ends up being way more experienced and sophisticated with these types of situations than a regular OBGYN) and her amazing skill is part of the reason I'm now naturally pregnant at 37 (and doing your kettlebell DVD) after a surgery to remove a grapefruit sized cyst of my ovary via a laparoscopic day surgery. Your average OBGYN might have just given me a hysterectomy. But my doctor had skillz, baby! So long story - but seek out serious hardcore experts and explore options - it is always worth it!
Natasha Kay said…
When it comes to exclusion diets, I think it's so important to listen to what your body is telling you. And there is no "one-size-fits-all" solution! Good for you for being true to yourself, and not to the pressure of your peers.

I'm sorry to hear that you've been having health issues but I'm glad you've come to terms with opening up about them...if people have idolized you and are now suffering disappointment, that is most definitely their issue to resolve, not yours!
Jilligan said…
Lauren, you know we love you! I'm glad you didn't decide to hide - seeing real people in the DVDs keeps me sane when I'm feeling "fluffy", so please! Keep performing to the best of your capabilities and we'll all cheer you on - vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian, whateves - just be yourself and know you're a great example for the rest of us. Be healthy, be happy, and go get a second opinion with an OB/GYN that specializes in feritility before you make a that life-changing decision!
Kettlbell Lover said…
I just wanted to add something to yesterday's comments -

I didn't have fibroids, but I had endometriosis which was diagnosed at the ripe old age of 16. Really.

I suffered along through my 20's and 30's, hurting and sure pregnancy was always out of my reach. Then lightning struck and I got pregnant naturally at age 37 - no pills, shots, nada! I have an beautiful 8-year old daughter now.

The aftermath of my pregnancy was hell. Because of the hormone surge, my endo raged out of control and became stage 4 - invasive. On my bladder, colon, wrapping around my kidneys. Bad, serious stuff. I did eventually have a hysterectomy at age 40. I feel great now and am fit and healthy. Am I a poster child for having flat abs? NO. I will struggle with the after effects of the hysterectomy forever. Weight loss is harder now than ever.

My understanding is that there is better treatment for fibroids than for endo. Please find a doctor who will work with you. Hysterectomy should be the FINAL OPTION, and then only when you are ready. I was ready, and I'm still happy with my decision.

Good luck!!!!
Mary Congdon said…
Lauren, you are an amazing person who is courageous and gracious. You will meet each challenge with the grace you know you have! I did your new DVD yesterday for the first time and LOVED it! I did the whole hour and impressed myself (I'm 56). It is now my favorite. Hang in there, life is not easy, but the way you take each day and deal with it is the most important thing. God Bless,
Gabby Eborall said…
I'm sure that you will, as always do what is right for you Lauren. Thank you for sharing and don't hesitate to call me if I can help in any way.
Lauren said…
This was a great post! Your blog is the ONLY fitness/nutritional blog I keep on my reader. I follow you because you know your stuff AND because you're a real person who shares your actual struggles and successes. Please keep posting things like this! Thank you for sharing!!!
Runa103 said…
Lauren I too have fibroid tumors of the uterus and after a uterin biopsy and 11 iron transfusions from heavy menstrals due to them I can say that I am where you are and refuse a full hysterectomy or any for that matter and Im going to explore natural means as well as orthodox treatments myself to see where that brings me by next year! I will be following your blog to see how things are and like you said you do what works. sending nothing but positive vibes and continue to workout with larens kettlebell series because its not how hard I push but how better I feel afterwards for me.. you are a inspiration! Runa103...
Satu said…
Hi Lauren!

In my opinion, the less you use energy for striving to be physcially perfect or striving to follow the rules of some lifestyle or other, the better.

And take care of yourself! :-)
Karen said…
Hi Lauren. I am seeing a number of posts lately where the writers are being open about their "flaws", their human-ness. It is so wonderful, and it seems to be what we are craving as a society...realness.

Speaking to your food struggles (if you will), I can totally relate. Currently I am a recovering vegetarian, but still prefer veg to meat as I am very affected and disturbed by CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feedlot Operations). I know choose only to eat meat that was pastured, grass fed AND finished, etc...

I just read a great book called The Vegetarian Myth. The author was a 20 year vegan. It details her process back to meat eating, and she totally supports small farmers and is opposed to agriculture. It is a heartfelt book, and it really helped me not feel alone in my confusion between what my body was needing and my heart was wanting.

Please consider seeing an acupuncturist/herbalist who specializes in womens health.
Megan said…

"Those who matter don't mind, and those who mind don't matter." -Dr. Seuess

People seem to be more passionate about eating than politics or religion. I totally understand what you say when you talk about not mentioning your eating around people unless they ask. It always amazes me how simply eating differently than you did before (no matter how) seems to make people act as if it's a personal attack. I've struggled with which dies is right for me also...I was almost vegan when I went through a whirlwind of health problems, many of which were caused by the stress I put on myself about what my heart felt, what I thought was healthy, and what was actually best for my body. I learned to really take to heart that my eating affects no one else but me, and I need to listen to my body and take care of it in the best way I know how. I had to add meat and dairy back in because it was affecting my health to leave it out, no matter how many nuts, seeds, different grains, fats, and fruits and veggies I ate. In my research and findings I read that there are only about 10% or less of people who can healthfully be a vegan because our bodies are not all the same and we process things differently. I think there is a lot of push right now for a plant based diet and that most of that push is good, but it can get too extreme and it's good to really take a step back and listen to your body and do what's right for you.

As far as the fibroid tumor, I am with everyone that says a hystorectomy seems hasty and you should go for a second opinion. I had a softball sized tumor removed through an emergency surgery (similar to a c-section) because I went into the ER thinking I had appendicitis (I'd known something wasn't right for years, but every doctor I saw kept telling me it was UTIs) and finding out I had a tumor twisting (torsion) my ovary, cutting off its blood supply. It had to come out or I would lose my whole ovary. I had the tumor and 25% of the ovary removed and went home that day. The real recovery was a process though, similar to what I would picture C-section recovery (I've only had vaginal births lucky me). I would have done it sooner knowing how much better I felt after it was out. I was told by doctors that birth control hormones (especially in pill form, which I took briefly right after I got married) can cause fibroids to grow. I probably had it my whole life and it never bothered me because it was so small until pretty much fed it hormones.

Hormone imbalance is no small thing. I would recommend being very careful how you treat it because it can wreak havoc if you do it incorrectly, and I don't believe there is any "only way" to do's just different for everybody.

My cousin who is 25 (I'm 26) had a fibroid tumor removed a few months later than me. It had grown to the size of a cantalope. She was told it wasn't cancerous, but when they tested it after it came out, they found that it was cancer and she went through chemo and radiation, the whole bit. She has recovered now and even had a baby since then and she is so grateful she opted to take it out. Cancerous fibroids are rare, but they can happen. Please just be aware of that as you being your journey of tough decisions and lots of emotions.

Going through all that stuff is such a humbling experience. I don't know if you are a religious person or not, but those experiences brought me closer to God and taught me to rely on Him more and to listen to what He was trying to teach me. I realized I was being guided and if I listened and followed His promptings, I was led in the right direction. He never failed me and was always there. He is always there. :)

I will keep you in my prayers. You are a beautiful person - inside and out - and although you are hitting some "bumps" in the road, you will come out of this a stronger and better person. Just hang in there and know that there are people all over cyberspace pulling for you! Hugs!
Jennifer said…
Oh Lauren, I'm coming upon this post now, but just wanted to say that your honesty and willingness to be vulnerable with us makes me admire you even MORE, not less. I'm so sorry to hear about the difficulties you're going through in your health. I had an ovarian cyst a few years ago that was also causing major issues for me, and I ended up having surgery to have it removed, losing a fallopian tube in the process and because the cyst had grown to the size of a football (yes, a football), it had swallowed up one of my ovaries and that ovary is no longer functioning. It was a painful, traumatic time for me and the only way I got through it was because of my faith and the love/support of my family and friends.

I hope you have people in your life you can lean on during this time--lean on them and know that you are strong and capable and you will make the right decision for yourself and your body. Know also that your true fans won't judge you for your appearance or what you choose to eat (or not eat), but rather offer you their support. Those who do judge you are not worth the time or mindshare!!

Much love!
Kelli said…
Just a quick note to let you know that I'll be praying for you!
Kelli said…
Just a quick note to let you know that I'll be praying for you!
Monifah said…
Love this post! Hope you'll be ok again soon. I don't know you but from what i know about you I think you are a wonderfull mother/partner/friend and teacher! Hope it will ll work out well for you, good luck :o) Hugs from Denmark
khadijah said…
Beautiful post! I love your honesty and dedication. I love that you don't pretend to be other people or encourage others to be that way. Which is what I think a lot of people in the fitness industry *sell*.. A lot of empty words. You're amazing, I love your workout videos, and I admire the way you connect with people.

Also, I share your POV about loving plant based diet but not totally restrictive. Craving meat is in our instincts, but life is too short to beat yourself up and feel guilty about who you are.
Melody said…
I finally was able to read this! First of all, I am so, so honored and humbled to be included in your list of "rock star vegans."

Second of all, never, ever feel bad about doing what you need to do. Your body is different from anyone else's body, and you need to do what is right for you. You are doing the best thing for your health, and keeping your morality in mind as you do so, and that is all you can do!

I'm going to ask one of my professors if he knows something you can do about the fibroids that you are not already doing. There might be a magic bullet somewhere that will make you feel better and help normalize your hormones. I know he's had a lot of success with fibroid patients.

Anyway, love you, and hope you know that you are absolutely amazing. I admire and respect the heck out of you. <3
ije said…
so inspiring lauren! i appreciate all that you do and the courage it took to publish this.

i agree that we need to learn to listen to what our body needs and adjust what we feed it regularly. it's so funny to me how ppl get so religious about food.

and thank you for modeling how to make peace with your body's "imperfections"
Karina said…
Do not feel bad for abandoning the vegan path! You listen to your body´s needs and this is fine! Also, I would like to provide you with the following links to articles by Denise Minger who re-analysed the raw data of the China Study as well as of Forks Over Knives and found some crucial flaws. As you are a scientific-minded person I am sure you are interested:
Please note that Denise is NOT from the Paleo community but a raw foodist but she knows how to read statistics! Maybe that helps to feel better about including some animal food anf to justify ypu decision!
Anonymous said…
Do you supplement with DHA? I am asking because I have read so much about how conversion from ALA (plant form of Omega-3) isn´t very efficient. Can you recommend a brand?
Thank you!
Lauren Brooks said…
I just want to thank each and every one of you for taking the time to comment! I wish I could write each and every one of you back. Your words of encouragement and stories you shared that relate could not have meant more to me. I truly thank you all! I will keep you all posted!



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