From survivor to superhero, Matt Ode joins the podcast to discuss his journey through Stage 3C testicular cancer and how his faith and tribulation made him the dynamic motivator and speaker he is today. It is a fantastic conversation about the perseverance of faith amid a severe storm.
[00:00:00] Dr. Richard Harris: Hello, Dr. Richard Harris here. Welcome to the strive for great health podcast. And in this episode, we have a special guest, a good friend of mine, Matt Ode. And this is a conversation you are not going to want to miss. Matt shares his story about how he went from cancer survivor to superhero. It’s a very poignant discussion and Matt outlines everything that he went through and how he’s used his pain and his story to now deliver value and help others. Are you ready to boost your health EQ and IQ? Cue the music?
Join me, Dr. Richard Harris, as we strive to unlock the secrets of the human body strive for wellness strive for great health. Follow the show on iTunes, Spotify, Google, and Android.
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Welcome the Strive for Great Health Podcast with your host, Dr. Richard Harris, and I have another special guest with me on the podcast. Someone who is truly an inspiration, a fitness expert and cancer survivor. And he’s got a great story to tell today. Matt Odie, welcome to the podcast. How are you doing today?
[00:04:40] Matt Ode: Doing well, thank you for having me on. I’m excited to share my story more or less what I’ve learned and hopefully help your community out.
[00:04:47] Dr. Richard Harris: Thank you so much. It’s always great to hear the story of people who have walked through some of these serious medical events and came out on the other side. And as weird as it is to say, really came out stronger and with a sense of purpose and a sense of passion. How did your story get you to what you do today?
[00:05:09] Matt Ode: Yeah. Great question. Before all of this obviously had no idea or direction of where I was really heading, especially as a motivational speaker and now helping the cancer community out. I was always a health kind of guru. I loved lifting, working out in general, I was a personal trainer for four and a half years before I was even diagnosed with cancer. Health is really my background. I knew I wanted to do something in that area, but I didn’t know exactly what it was gonna entail. And when cancer hit, it’s kinda crazy because I was looking at it this way everybody has this direction in life that they think they’re going, but as you start going towards that direction you don’t know what setbacks, I’m praying it’s not cancer, but you never know what setbacks are going to be involved. You never know what’s going to happen. It’s never going to be this yellow brick road. And for me, I always look at as the bigger the adversity, the more challenges you go through in life, the greater the opportunity, the greater you have to really make an impact in this world.
A lot of people are afraid to fail. I look at failure as success. I look at failure as a way to really push myself forward because the more I fail, the more I learned from it. One of my favorite sayings that I learned from a guy named Ed Millett. His favorite thing is everything in life happens for you not to you.
And what I mean by that is we’re all going to get unexpected news in life. We’re all going to get unfair situations, but you can take that exact same situation and go two different directions. You can say, why is this happening to me which creates excuses, blames other people, blames God, or whatever you believe in, or you can take the same situation and say, how do I learn from it? How do I grow from it, become a better version of myself, but more importantly, how do I use it to help the next individual that is going through a challenging situation as well? I had a lot of ups and downs in cancer, a lot of mental, emotional, physical trauma that I had to overcome.
And really it was me taking care of myself first. But after that, I said, you know what? This is so deep for me, something that is meaningful to me and I want to give back to other people. And I think that’s for a lot of people. If you’re going through something challenging in your life, this might be a path for you to really help in whatever community or direction it’s leading you.
Cancer in a sense is bad as it was and as bad as you know as difficult of the journey as I’ll share some of it with you, it led to so many positive things as well, man, and I pray nobody gets cancer, but I do pray that you do face some adversity in your life in some area because that’s, what’s going to allow you to grow and that’s what’s gonna allow you to become that version that you want to be, and to help those people.
[00:07:33] Dr. Richard Harris: That’s such an amazing and inspirational story and I’m wondering because I’ve been on the other end of it, I’ve told people that they have cancer. And I always remember those people because it’s one of the worst things that you’ve ever have to tell somebody. Whenever I’d walk into a room and I’d have to tell someone that their loved one died, that’s always extremely hard it never gets easy. I hope it never gets easy. There’s always a piece of me that leaves with that and I’ll come home and my wife just knows. She knows that I had someone pass away because of the impact it has on me. But the second hardest thing is to tell someone that they have cancer. What was going through your head during those first couple of weeks after you found out? And how long did it take you to shift over to the mindset and the outlook that you have now?
[00:08:31] Matt Ode: Yeah. First I just want to recognize all of, I was diagnosed at the Cleveland clinic, so incredible, incredible hospital. One of the best in the country for sure and I can not thank the doctors and the nurses and what you guys do for us enough. So I just wanted to say that real quick because honestly I wouldn’t be here today without all the incredible doctors and nurses. I will say this sad as it is to see people pass away the amount of lives you guys touch in the amount of lives you guys save, we cannot thank you enough. I want to be that person personally, to thank you guys for what you do, and then how you help us through that difficult challenge that none of us want to go through in our lives.
When I was diagnosed my doctor is the same way he walked in. I’ll get a little backstory here. I had a lot of back pain throughout the summer. I was 24 years old, personal trainer thinking. Okay. It’s from lifting. I’ll be absolutely fine. Got worse and worse. One night I ended up puking up blood.
Got rushed to the emergency room, lost two thirds of my blood circling my body. My hemoglobin was below five. I immediately got six bags of blood got rushed into emergency surgery because they thought it was an ulcer that was causing the bleeding. Next day I wake up and I’m thinking it’s over.
And that’s when my doctor walked in and I knew right away, he had this just sense of, just blank stare in his eyes. And he basically sat down with me. And he said Matt we found an 11 centimeter tumor in your small intestine. We know it’s cancerous. We just don’t know exactly what type it is. I was at a local hospital at that time, we have to rush you to the Cleveland clinic to figure out what type of cancer it is.
And right then and there, man, for me I was in so much shock. It was just me and my parents at the time. And I was also dating my girlfriend Lauren for only two months. We’re still together and for me I just felt like I needed to be the strong person. And this is for a lot of men out there too.
I felt like I had to be this strong individual. I couldn’t open up. I couldn’t share my emotions and I just had to be this tough person. And as the couple of days went by friends started flooding in. I started to just still have that strong attitude. I still was definitely in shock. And then all of a sudden Lauren arrives and man, emotions just started flooding.
And because at first, I didn’t know if she wanted to still be with me because there’s only two months of dating and that’s a big burden to put on somebody. But we just basically hugged and just let all our emotions out. I knew she was going to be there for me every step of the way. And for a male, this is what I really want to help a lot of and in some female, but female are much better at this, is releasing our emotions because I think a lot of anxiety, a lot of PTSD, a lot of depression, a lot of mental health issues comes from holding in a lot of the baggage, a whole lot of our emotions, because we have this perception of being this type of individual, but really when you can open up when you can be vulnerable, when you can share with what you’re going to, you don’t have to share to the world. I do this now so I can help others.
But at first it was just me opening up to my parents and Lauren, period. That’s it and it was literally like all this weight released from my chest, from my shoulders, because it allowed me to open up and not just holding all of the stuff that has been, you know, I’ve been dreading. And as I was able to do that, that allow me then to focus on one simple task a day.
This is what really, really helped me. You want to know the meaning of being present. I’m sure everybody listening to this has heard the meaning be present, live in the moment. Well, when you have a life or death situation, you have to live in the moment. Because guess what the second you start dwelling about the past, or you’re constantly worrying about the future.
You’re on a road to so much more pain, so much more adversity. So I had to say, what can I do today to better myself? Maybe it’s just getting myself up to go to chemotherapy. Maybe it’s walking because I’m starting to feel a little bit better, or it is just doing X, Y, and Z. But I had to focus on one thing in, all it does is as you compound those one little things, it makes a massive difference in your life. It’s like that saying Rome, wasn’t built in a day. It’s the same exact same. You have to constantly do something, I call it winning the day. That’s what I like to say. If you win the day, you’ll eventually win the week. If you win the week, you’ll eventually win the month.
And as you keep going along, that’s where all your success or that’s where you’re able to overcome a lot of challenges, especially through cancer is not trying to do all these things at once and not constantly worrying days ahead or what had happened. That’s what really helped me emotionally.
And trust me though, I will say this. I had so many times where I was just ready to give up and I was ready to give in, but my support system and my faith, those are the two biggest things I’m Christian, I do believe in God and I had my absolutely incredible support system. When you are on a lonely path, the only thing you got is yourself and your faith in God and that’s when I, at first I needed that and then I needed to be able to open up to the people that were there for me. It made a huge difference in my mental and even physical journey throughout cancer.
[00:13:20] Dr. Richard Harris: Thank you for sharing with us, Matt. There’s a lot to unpack there. Now, when you were going through this journey, did you do any type of formalized training? Did you take classes? Did you read books? How did you begin to unlock your potential while you were going through something that is so devastating and yet you came out of it like a Phoenix and rose from the ashes and became this powerhouse of a person. Now, how did that happen? Cause a lot of people aren’t able to find that. How did you find that or did it find you?
[00:13:57] Matt Ode: I somewhat found it and I didn’t find it actually until about two years after cancer. It seems like I found it during cancer, but I had my support system, my faith and my health background. Those were my three things throughout cancer and when I was finally released so long story short, I went through all my chemotherapy.
I went through five rounds of BEP, bleomycin, etoposide, cisplantin. And then I had a ton of different complications. I was in a coma for two weeks, had kidney and liver failure, went into cardiac arrest. I was in ICU for over 40 days. Was in the Cleveland clinic for 53 days, had five surgeries the last surgery they did on me was an open wound surgery, which they pretty much had to leave a football size, mesh over my stomach, and they had to take out all of my abdominals. And literally man, I went from 185 pound personal trainer to 110 pounds of skin and bone in about eight months. That journey right there I had to take care of myself first, man, before I could go and try and help anybody else before I could be the person I wanted to be and help the community. It took me two years, mentally, emotionally, physically of constantly never giving up on myself. You know what I say? You want to know, it builds confidence in your life?
You want to know what allows you to get to where you want to be in your life is keeping the promises you make to yourself. And that means is when you say you’re going to do something that day, you at least give it a try and you go out and do it. Don’t make the excuse, stop blaming the world or blaming God or blaming other people and go out and try.
You’re going to fail. I failed a lot, but guess what? I at least gave it a shot. And before I knew it, I was gaining my weight back. I was gaining my mental attitude back. I was gaining that positive direction. And it took me two years. And eventually you want to know what allowed me to really get to where I’m at today.
It actually wasn’t cancer groups. It wasn’t going to a psychiatrist or anything like that. It was being around entrepreneurs. And I’m gonna tell you why is because entrepreneurs take a massive problem. They solve it and they use it to impact the world. And I needed to be around like-minded people that were going to get me to that destination because after two years I went through all of this and I’m like, listen, God you put me through all of this craziness.
And I know for a fact that this is the one thing that most cancers survivors struggle with is they know that they’re not going to be the same person they were pre cancer. And I knew I wasn’t in the problem is, is a lot of our loved ones they somewhat expect us to be back to that same version of ourselves.
And we’re not, we’re a bigger, better, stronger version. And a lot of us have a different path in life. And that was my thing is I said, God, I have a different path. Please direct me towards it. And I started getting into different groups with different people who had a similar mindset as me. And that is the key to life.
If you want to get somewhere, need to surround yourself with the right people, who are going to help elevate you because if you’re constantly surrounding yourself with maybe it is your friends, but a lot of the times, some of those friends are still in their high school glory days, or want to go out and drink every single weekend, or they’re just stuck into whatever rut, that they been in for so many years.
And you want to break out of that. Well, if you want to break out of that, you need to limit the time you spend with them and elevate yourself with more like-minded people. And that’s exactly what I did. As I started sharing my story to a lot of these people, they’re like, listen, you need to get on stage or you need to do something here. And that’s what kind of got me into the motivational speaking. Get me more on podcasts. And now even gave me the courage to start a Facebook group in October of this past year 2020. And we now have over 2,600 cancer survivors and patients in the group, all for the same exact reason of trying to figure out what is our next path.
And I’m the mentor on that guide. And I’m really trying to help them, but as much as a mentor, as I am for them, I’m also a student as well. Sorry, it’s a long explanation, but that’s, what’s really got me to where I need to be. What I would tell people is take care of yourself, first, figure out what you need to do, rely on your faith because in the very beginning, when you go out in that difficult road, you want to do something with your life, it’s you and your faith. And then at the end, you have to surround himself with the right people.
[00:17:51] Dr. Richard Harris: Amazing. Thank you. Thank you so much. I’m not going to talk much on this episode because I just want to keep asking you questions. Did you ever blame God when you were going through that, did you have those moments where you said why me, what did I do to deserve this? And now when you look back at it, how do you feel about those moments? What comes to mind when you were in those positions of weakness?
[00:18:15] Matt Ode: I will say this. I don’t believe I ever blamed God. I did ask him a lot of questions. But I never blamed him. My mom is extremely faith-based with Christian and we would listen to just different Christian shows or like radio shows on my way to chemo every single day. We would just listen to some type of worship or some type of positivity that God brings.
And it really helped me. And I would look up a lot of quotes and stuff, but don’t get me wrong when I would have setbacks, I would easily go into it, but you want to know, it really helped me get out of it quickly was praying, was allowing myself to surrender myself to God, surrender myself in saying, Hey, listen, if I am truly a believer in you, I need to give myself, I need to surrender myself to you.
And there were definitely probably three or four, extreme near death experiences. You want to hear a really cool story is I have a couple of stories that I know God was working through me. One of them was when I was in my coma my mom helped three prayer services to the church that we go to hundreds and hundreds of people would be praying for me, hundreds or thousands of people would be praying around the world for me. They had people praying everywhere, literally in the middle of that last prayer service was the day that I woke up and I woke up when Lauren was actually holding my hand because what she would do is every day she stayed in that ICU with me every day and every day she’d come over to hold my hand.
And she just pray that I would wake up. And she was literally holding my hand during the middle of the prayer service. And I woke up. And for me, that was God saying that, Matt this isn’t the end of your journey, this is just the beginning. I have a lot of other stories, a lot of really cool stories, but that was a big one.
And I just know that everything I do now in life I have a lot of setbacks still. I have a lot of faults in my life, but I never blamed God because at the end of the day, it’s my decision. It’s not him. I look at God is giving you the opportunity to make those mistakes in your life or to go through those challenges in your life to ultimately learn. And it’s your decision? Are you gonna learn from it or are you going to blame other people? So, yes, I got aggravated, yes. I got really upset maybe at other people, but my faith I think because of my mother was really strong at the time.
[00:20:26] Dr. Richard Harris: Yeah, that’s been the rock in my family as well. When my mom got diagnosed with cancer, when my sister was in the ICU for an overdose, when everything that’s happened bad to us, it’s always been prayer, prayer, prayer. And my mom is going through a lot and she still talks about her faith and her faith is her rock.
And it’s amazing to hear someone so young to have that. And I definitely didn’t have, when I was your age, I was a blockhead, when I was your age, I was an idiot. But this really brings up the question that knowing what you know now, what would you tell yourself when you first got diagnosed? What would you tell yourself to do to help prevent some of the heartache, maybe that pain to prepare you for the road that you were going to walk?
[00:21:16] Matt Ode: My number one thing was do not be afraid to open up and share what you’re going through. Cause as much as I told you, I would open up to Lauren and my family. There were still times where I was holding things in and that caused a lot of mental struggle for me.
And this is for a lot of males out there please do not be afraid to open up. And number two is. Really, really, really try to take all of your setbacks and think of them as a setup for something greater in your life. For me I was always before cancer man, like I was so afriad to fall flat on my face, to get criticized or to have somebody say, maybe I’m not good enough.
And I would take that to heart and when I stopped worrying what other people thought about me and I knew what my intentions were and I followed my intuition in my heart. That’s what allowed me to really get to where I want to be with my life. I would say to my younger self is stop getting things in your head and start looking more inwards into your heart and into your intuition.
And when you do that, you’re gonna drown out a lot of that negative noise. You’re going to use a lot of those failures is a way to push yourself forward and you’re going to be amazed at where you can go in life. I would say mostly follow your heart and stop letting the inner what I call b-voice which I’m sure you can understand what that is. The inner b-voice, like get to you because it can, and it does all the time. It’s very easy to.
[00:22:39] Dr. Richard Harris: I tell my wife all the time that you have to shut that voice down because that voice never tells you anything good. And you have to replace that with your own voice. That’s stronger, louder, and positive, and that’s something that I’ve done over the years. I rarely have a negative thought linger in my head.
I always try and force it into a positive thought and be part of that growth mindset that I’m not where I want to be, but I’m going to get there. I’m better than I was a week ago, or look all the progress I’ve made in the last six months. I’m way closer to where I want to be. Now, having gone through what you went through, you had the fitness background. Is wellness still a big part of your daily routine, your life. And are you still out there doing some things to help people with wellness?
[00:23:32] Matt Ode: Wellness is, is and always will be a massive part of my life because at the end of the day, if you don’t have your health, what’s the point? You could have a billion dollars in your account, but guess what? You get the flu or you get diagnosed with cancer. What are you going to be thinking about? You gonna think about the billion dollars in your account?
You’re going to be thinking, how do I cure myself, or how do I get rid of this cold? As simple as a cold or all the way up to cancer. You’re going to be constantly thinking about your health. I’ve seen too many of my grandparents, I only have my grandmother left and I’ve seen too many even passed away way too young because they did not take care of themselves.
And I will not let myself be like that. I know a lot, that’s what I like about this generation is I think a lot of us are really taking our health into strong consideration. For me I’m still a wellness director as well, it’s on top of what I’m doing as a motivational speaker, building a community and helping a lot of people through these challenges with cancer, I’m also a wellness director too. I work for a company with around 400 employees and I help them create a healthy atmosphere. We do corporate challenges, keeping them with step counts. We do wellness events, online wellness events now, but we did in-person wellness events with nutritionists, health experts. I’ve been a personal trainer, I’m still personal trainer of eight years. Obviously I haven’t been able to do personal training because of COVID, but we have full gym access for our employees. I’ve been really diving into that, but even into the cancer community, I’ve been helping people with what I’m knowledgeable with.
I don’t really get into this is going to cure cancer and all this stuff. A lot of people are like, you read this and this is going to happen. I’m going to let the doctors and the nutritionist and all of that, you talk to them. But for me, I will help you with maybe helping you through getting on a healthier diet or helping you build a workout plan, because I’m really good at that.
And helping you get through some of those challenges, because I think at the end of the day movement is one of the most powerful things for your body and your mind. You get dopamine, you get this sense of positivity. You get this energy when you work out, a lot of people think they’re gonna lose their energy, no it’s the total opposite. You’re going to gain more energy. You’re going to gain more competence in yourself. You’re going to start looking a little bit better. You’re going to feel a little bit better, and you’re going to be more productive with your day and guess what that allows you to do the things you love with the people you love for the most amount of time that you possibly can have.
And that’s what I look at health is at the long run of it, I used to, when I was in my young twenties, I used to always think, I want to really look good for the girls and all of this stuff. And now I want to be healthy, so that for when I have kids and when I have grandkids and when I’m 70 years old, I’m not in a wheelchair or I’m having to go to doctor’s visits all the time. I love what you guys do, but I don’t want to be visiting you guys too often. I want to be out there exploring the world, doing things. That’s my idea on health and why it’s so important. I think there’s a lot of different avenues between sleep, working out, meditation, hydration, your micronutrients, your macronutrients. You can get all into all of that. But for me, I just try to make it as simple as possible for a lot of people so that I don’t over complicate it.
[00:26:27] Dr. Richard Harris: That’s amazing. That’s something that a lot of people have not yet figured out is that in order for you to be healthy and also to reverse or treat any type of illness while you’re going through it, you have to work on your body, your mind, and your spirit, because all three of them are linked.
If any one of those is off kilter, it’s gonna throw off the response. You’re not going to be able to efficiently fight off what your body needs to fight off. If your mind’s not right. If your spirit’s not right and putting those all together is really what I’ve been trying to do here at the podcast to get people, to see the links.
And it’s a lot more powerful coming from someone such as yourself, who has walked through this, who has done this and now is helping other people do the same. What’s next for you? And you’ve got a million things going on. You’re a man after my own heart. Give me a five-year goal. What do you wanna accomplish in the next five years?
[00:27:32] Matt Ode: Definitely want to write a book, number one, want to write a book because as a speaker too, it gives me a lot of leverage and I can really feel like I can impact a lot of people. That’s probably a two year plan. Five-year plan big big dreams. My two biggest goals. And this might be 10, 15 years though.
I’m just going to give them out because this is in my heart. Number one is I want to start an app. I haven’t even shared this on any podcasts. It’s the first time I’m sharing it because it’s kind of scary. It’s like my first, like I just started to really think about this. What I want to do with this app is I want it to be kind of like a central hub for survivors and patientsthat are looking for the mental and emotional health. They’re looking for groups, they’re looking for support systems. I want to get involved with different organizations, different psychiatrist, things like that, and be like, Hey listen,. I can help you through whatever you’re going through.
And if you’re looking for X, Y, and Z, maybe it’s an in-person event. I can connect you. I’m in Ohio. Maybe you’re in New York. I can connect you with a group in New York. I can connect you with a group in California. If you live in California, or maybe you’re just looking for an online presence, because you don’t want to go in person because it makes you feel uncomfortable.
You feel more comfortable in your home. It’s a big vision. It’s still a lot in my mind, but that’s one thing that I would say this have scary goals and that’s one of them, because I know that if I can make this happen and I can really make this work, I think it would be a total game changer because I don’t really know any cancer platforms that really do that. That really are like a one-stop shop for the mental and emotional support, because I’ll tell you right now after cancer is just as much of a battle as it is during cancer. We need all of the doctors and nurses, but guess what you guys have your own job to do, and that is to help cure the cancer.
But once that cancer is cured then it’s kind of on our own to figure out, okay, what’s next? Where do we go? And yes, like therapists can help. But if they haven’t actually gone through cancer, for some people, they need people who can relate to them. They need people on the other end that have actually gone through that challenge and overcame it.
That is one big goal for me. And then once I’m able to kind of do that, I want to start my own non-profit. And what I want to do with my own nonprofit is I was very fortunate financially. Very fortunate financially to go through all of the surgeries and the cancer and working through insurance, all of that craziness. I’m sure you know when it comes to bills and stuff like that.
And I know a lot of people aren’t and I want to take all of that pressure off of families, especially young adults, because young adults is just so dear to me because of what I’ve went through. But so really helping families reach young adults who’ve been impacted by cancer and helping them through that financial support so that they don’t have to constantly have so much worry about that.
And they can put all of their focus on to what really matters, which is their child, which is, or their, spouse or whoever it is that is going through that challenging time. Those are my two scary, big goals. And in between I want to write a book and there’s some other things.
[00:30:26] Dr. Richard Harris: That’s awesome. Thanks for sharing your passion and it’s all about service. Everything you’ve said in this almost 30 minute podcast here is all been about service and you can really tell where your heart is and what you want to do. There’s some people I want to connect you with. I think there’s some people in my network who can help you reach what you want to reach. Once you get everything going, please reach out. I’d love to help you and contribute in any way I can.
[00:30:54] Matt Ode: Thank you. That means a lot to me. It really does. Thank you.
[00:30:56] Dr. Richard Harris: You’re welcome and so this has been the takeover of the Strive for Great Health Podcast by Matt Ode. I think this is the least amount of airtime that I’ve had on my own podcast. You’re setting records my friend.
[00:31:09] Matt Ode: Thanks brother. I appreciate you having me and I really hope this can bring some value to your incredible community. So thanks again.
[00:31:16] Dr. Richard Harris: Absolutely. Why don’t you share your Facebook community for anybody who’s looking? And if you have any other resources that you’d like to share,
[00:31:23] Matt Ode: Absolutely. My Facebook group. It’s just called cancer community taking back your life from cancer. If you want though, just, just shoot me a direct message on Facebook. It’s just Matt, M A T T O D E. You can find me there or you can find me on Instagram at M A T T Y. So MATTY underscore. And really for a one-stop everything.
My website is just MattOdespeaks.com. I have my links to my Facebook, my Instagram, and my YouTube channel as well. I’d be happy to connect with you guys and if you ever need anything, I’m very happy to help and same with you. Do you want me to call you Richard or Dr. Harris? Whatever you like I’ll go with Dr. Harris. Dr. Harris, I appreciate it, man. If there’s anything I can do for you as well, please let me know and I’d be happy to assist.
[00:32:06] Dr. Richard Harris: Thank you so much, Matt you can call me Richard. All right guys, well, there’s a lot of value that Matt unpacked today. Go back, listen to this again. Of course, the transcripts will be on the website and all the links that he just mentioned will be there as well. To my listeners, thank you for listening to the Strive for Great Health Podcast with your host, Dr. Richard Harris taken over by Matt Ode, have a blessed day.
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