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Let's Discuss...food intake and energy levels
107 Posts

Many people share that energy levels decrease significantly while they are going through treatment or while caring for someone with cancer. The way that we nourish our bodies can make all the difference in our energy level. A well balanced diet gives your body the nutrition it needs during and after cancer treatment.

  • What are some of your favourite energy boosting meals or snacks?
  • What was your ‘go-to’ meal during treatment?
  • As a caregiver, what are your tips for preparing meals for your loved one?
32 Replies
14 Posts

I had my surgery sept 13 .I go to the hospital for a Tela conference tomorrow with the Dr from Sudbury to know what’s happening next. I have lost my energy and. Some of my appetite. I am trying to walk a little every day but have other medical problems

1 Posts

Having the energy to make food and then eat the food has been challenging for me. On days where I have the energy, I prep grilled cheese sandwiches and put them in the freezer and buy premade hearty vegan soups (Mabel's or Ma's) from Fiesta Farms or What a Bagel. On days where I feel like I just can't, I microwave soup or put a grilled cheese in the toaster oven. Tasty (and somewhat healthy) comfort food.

2263 Posts

@brittanyc Hello….what a great topic to discuss.

I am a firm believer: “You are, what you eat!”

So….why be a grape…..when you can be a Sautee'd Mushroom (did I spell that correctly??)

During treatment…..I too, lost my appetite….Ensure/Boost drinks, were all I could tolerate….Even if I ate “real food”…..the exit ramp was swift!

On the colon cancer journey…….it was suggested to me to:

Reduce Red Meat….Reduce Dairy….Reduce Processed Foods…..

Every little bit helps, towards a New & Healthy You.



8442 Posts

Hi @brittanyc great topic! I was a caregiver to my fiance who had esophageal cancer so eating for him was not an option. He was on a feeding tube. I also felt very guilty to eat in front of him so I tried to do it when he wasnt around. Im not proud of the way I didnt look after myself. I was driving him to and from hospitals and appointments all the time and didnt have the energy or care to bother to care for myself. So at the hospital cafeteria I would just grab muffins or ice cream while waiting for him during radiation or chemo. It was very unhealthy and I don't recommend it. If you dont have the time or energy to prepare meals, I would recommend perhaps asking someone for some help…someone to drop stuff off for you, and freeze meals so you have something ready. I was also too upset to eat. If you find yourself too upset to eat, you still have to nourish yourself in some way…..try Boost or Ensure or something just to keep your energy levels up and get calories into you.

1037 Posts

Good topic. Thou during treatment not sure there was too much healthy eating. My caregiver would make me homemade fries if I hadn’t eaten for a while. Thou I couldn’t tolerate salt well and last couple months the sores wouldn’t let me eat them. Just got referred to dietitian to help with my ongoing ostomy issues. (Constipation is bad for the ostomy). I’m curious what they will recommend.

1032 Posts

My most frequent go-to snacks and small meals now during treatments and recovery include ginger water, almond milk, frozen watermelon chunks, frozen Greek yogurt, butternut squash soup, chia pudding, peanut butter and lentils.

Salmon, tuna, zucchini, radishes, cauliflower, and nuts, too, but not the first day or two of an infusion. There’s a lactose-free yogurt drink that I take with me to infusions.

Chia Pudding: 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk, 2-3 tblsp ground chia, splash of lemon juice and/or lime juice, and a sprinkle of stevia. If I have a sore mouth/throat, I omit the lemon/lime juice. Also, great with berries.

(Edited to add: Severe taste/smell distortion 24/7 for a few months during last year’s treatments. Constant smell of turpentine. Food...blech! I ate a lot of plain, unsalted mashed potatoes, waxed beans and chicken. It was a great excuse to eat unlimited mashed potatoes!)

@JanW3, I hope all goes well with your teleconference on Tuesday.

1537 Posts

@brittanyc this is a good topic but so much is dependent on the type of treatment you have and the side effects you are experiencing.

When I was going through chemo I ate quite a few carbs during week one. I also ate a lot of cut up melon (purchased it that way from the store). The melon was refreshing and it is loaded with water so it is perfect to help get your fluids in.

Week two following chemo I craved spinach salad and I loaded it up with dried cranberries, sliced almonds, mandarin oranges, mushrooms. It tasted great and was a great white blood count booster.

Week 3 I could eat pretty much what I felt like. Although I did have to stay away from spicy and super fatty foods because of heartburn.

I found eating meat somewhat difficult and still do two years later.

I didnt have issues with my taste buds changing so foods continued to taste pretty much the same.

I really enjoyed cranberry juice mixed with gingerale, greek yogurt and ice cream. I found it to be a lot of trial and error. If I were about to start treatment, I wouldn’t get too much food in the house and play out the first couple of cycles of chemo to see what works for you.

1097 Posts

great discussion

even when I was doing OK, I hated to cook meals on radiation days….it just seemed like the very last straw….

I love a good soup or legumes and rice dish, and agree with others here that it is a great freeze and reheat easy meal. super simple and real comfort food.

toast and peanut butter was also a fave meal for a while.

and as much as I joke about it all, pizza is a great single person food when in treatment. I was able to get 24 hours of delicious cheesy goodness from one pizza, no cooking required as I love it equally hot or cold, and no dishes. #winwinwin
#pizzagintherapy saved me…..I know no dietician would approve--ha ha ha

I also do remember when I was a caregiver to my spouse we were told by someone to ‘eat what you want, when you want’. and ‘NEVER to eat your fave foods’ during chemo…as the food tastes so different with all those medications on board…that it ‘will never be the same for you again’. not sure if the advice is the same these days!

bon appétit my fellow cancer connection pals…..

#nutrition #eatingduringtreatment

During treatment, I liked oatmeal. Instead of the from scratch type, I would buy the boxes of packets. Easier to make and lots of different flavours. I also remember eating a lot of fresh fruit. I do remember then I didn't get take out very often as I didn't want to waste the money if my taste buds were off. I did however eat a lot of fries and gravy. It seemed to taste so good.

96 Posts

You've raised a good discussion point here. During radiation treatment I was hungry all the time and ate a LOT and still lost weight because of damage to the digestive tract. Mac and cheese was a favorite though. The problem was after radiation but still on hormone therapy (ADT) which causes anemia (and thus tiredness), reduced muscle mass (and thus reduced metabolism and weight gain) , elevated cholesterol levels, and an increased likelihood of diabetes. The challenge is from feeling tired all the time but avoiding foods that increase cholesterol and diabetes risks while trying to get energized through eating.

There is very little information or advice on diet for men on ADT (or women on hormone therapy for that matter). Reading bits and pieces here and there strongly suggests going vegetarian but so far I haven't come across anything of substance backed up by clinical studies. Nor have I come across recommended diets for those on hormone therapy.

I am told exercise helps raise red blood cell counts and reduce the feeling of tiredness so I believe we need to talk about diet and exercise together and not in isolation.

In retrospect, dealing with surgery and radiation treatment was easy in comparison to hormone therapy. Women tell me the same is true for their experience. I would be interested in hearing how others deal with this challenge.

19 Posts

When I am getting treatment, i have tuna sandwiches, home-made soups that I have frozen. I have several containers in the freezer ready to go.

697 Posts

First of all, I would love to have someone design the food in the containers for my fridge, please and thank you.

As for energy and food selections, I find that veggies are so healthy for fibre if your system can tolerate them. Although I LOVE breads and carbs, they succeed in filling me up yet make me sluggish. Most of the time I could stay horizontal and fatigued, but eating a more healthy, less animal sourced protein seems to be a better solution.

During my entire cancer and treatment, and most of the 9 months+ of recovery I refused to swallow, so I rarely ate anything. I would numb my mouth and then force down a couple bottles of Boost or Ensure.

These days, a morning cup of espresso and some yogurt with a touch of fruit compote convinces me I am eating well. (NOT). I use far too much Stevia on many meal items because sweetness remains the only taste sensation I still have. And, most fruit is salty without it. Soup and pureed veggies are still my best friends.

1 Posts

Focusing my meals around healthy whole foods, not processed or packaged makes me feel better, like I'm doing good for my body. I know that can be really hard at times so I've started making dishes that can last over a few days or be frozen (soups, stews). When friends ask how can they help? I always say make me something healthy to eat. It helps on those days when you're just not up for food preparation and cooking.

107 Posts

Hi @JanW3 , I hope your teleconference went well today. Walking every day is great no matter how much or how little. I hope that your appetite returns soon. Keep doing the best you can for yourself

@Michou Grilled cheese and soup is a very underrated combination! The right soup and the right bread can make what most consider to be a boring meal something to be excited about. Thank you for sharing!

@Whitelilies I agree completely and yes, you spelled that right! On days I don’t have much of an appetite those boosts/snack shakes do come in handy. Every little bit really does contribute to your overall health and well being, I notice this most on days I do not eat well. I’m in college, sometimes pizza is essential… but I always ask myself why I ate it when the heartburn kicks in haha. Thanks for sharing Whitelillies

@Brighty Thank you for sharing I love that you brought up asking for help; it can be really hard to take care of yourself and someone else at the same time. Especially if that person has entirely different needs than you do. Muffins and ice cream may not have been the healthiest choices for you, but I am still glad you ate something. I can’t imagine it was easy to eat anything at all with everything going on for you and your fiancé. You did the best you could Brighty, and that is all we can ask of ourselves.

@Boby1511 Sometimes, healthy food just is not appetizing or hard to get down. French fries are great if they are all someone can keep down during treatment. Anything is better than nothing, right!? I hope that the dietician can give you some foods that you’ll not only be able to eat but that you also enjoy eating. Thank you for sharing!

@S2020 So many different foods! Salmon is great for so many things and you can make it so many ways. I love to bake mine with some soy sauce, garlic, and lemon juice. Simple and easy. Simply reading butternut squash soup made me so hungry, I have not had that in forever. I guess I know what I’m making today. That chia pudding sounds lovely, too. I’ll definitely give it a try; I’ve never had it. Mashed potatoes are probably the best part of any dinner they’re served with. So simple but so yummy. Thank you for sharing 😊

@JustJan Your tip for those just beginning treatment is great. It would be disappointing for sure to load your home up with food you may end up not feeling like eating. Your spinach salad sounds amazing, and I have to give it a go! I’ve never been much of a fruit in my salad person, but your combination sounds like I do not know what I’ve been missing. Thank you for sharing!

@supersu Pizza and gin therapy may not be dietician approved, but it’s supersu approved and that is good enough for me! I’ve also heard the ‘eat what you want, when you want’ and I appreciate that others share that advice. Society places a lot of emphasis on healthy diets and food, but sometimes you just need the pizza. Eating the pizza is better than eating nothing at all, I think. Bon appetit Su, thanks for sharing

@Buffythevampire The instant packs of oatmeal can be such a life saver. They’re warm and soft and like you said, so many different flavours. Fries and gravy is a great combo, I’m happy you were able to enjoy them during treatment. Thank you for sharing! 🤗

@DSJ Mac and Cheese is a great meal. Comfort food always wins in my books. I learned so much from what you shared, thank you! I was not aware that ADT had so many other impacts. Diet and exercise definitely go hand in hand, and they should be talked about together, especially when going over a treatment plan or starting any new medications. They can have effects on our bodies that sometimes we need to compensate for. Thank you for sharing 😊

@Waldo Tuna sandwiches are yummy and there’s some protein in there, too! Excellent choices. I’m a big fan of tuna sandwiches with diced pickles and celery and some melted cheddar. Easy and good for my tastebuds. Thank you for sharing! 😊

59 Posts

I was fortunate that when I was having treatment I was staying at the Vancouver Lodge so the meal was looked after. Sometimes I would go out for a meal at a local restaurant. I have found though that I get tired of some of foods. I cook for myself so sometimes I don't have inspiration. I eat small meals, then I will cook a big pot of soup or stew and freeze it for later.

2000 Posts

When my son did his 3 mths of chemo, he did not have a pallet, he told me. We were instructed by the pharmacist to drink 8 glasses of water a day to protect his kidneys from damage by the chemo. There were so many pages of drugs, what to look out for and how to prevent…. He did take some notes and when we left to sit and wait for his first chemo treatment, he said “ All I need to do is drink lots everyday, right?” I said yes and bought Gatorade for the ride home but he also wanted a coffee.

Every morning of treatment days he would only eat a bagle and cream cheese plus coffee and Gatorade. I had to push fluids but he willingly drank. His other meal was Big Mac and poutine. He would eat bits of other meals and got to the point of eating a quarter of anything accept the bagel in the morning. I just made sure he could eat anything he wanted whenever he wanted. He would eat raspberries and strawberries and jello and that’s about it. He lost a lot of weight and one year and bit post treatment he still finds food tastes off and has a small appetite. I make him lots of freezer meals and have him for supper often so he gets a variety and not just fast food.

I just purchased an air fryer on sale and will try some recipes with that so he can make his own fast food. He is happy to not think much about cancer and is doing well❤️‍🩹

96 Posts

Thanks for your thoughts and feedback. This being Movember it is worth taking the time to think about the health of your father, grandfather, uncles, brothers and sons. Prostate cancer is one of those things affecting men's health that isn't discussed enough.

Prostate cancer kills about as many men as breast cancer kills women yet the awareness is not there. The research funding for prostate cancer is a fraction of what is spent on breast cancer research. Treatment of prostate cancer often involves ADT and the side effects destroy a man's quality of life. To be blunt, ADT is chemical castration with all the side effects of castration plus some more. Some men have taken their own lives rather than stay on ADT. It can be that bad. Raising this issue in the spirit of Movemeber.

2000 Posts

Thank you for the awareness, @DSJ . I just learned some new things about prostate cancer.

17 Posts

That was my main meal every day as well -canned green beans, mashed potatoes with butter or gravy and chicken. It was soft, mixed well and went down easy.

65 Posts

I haven't noticed consuming any particular food giving me energy but I do get excited and energized about shopping for groceries, reading nutrition labels, getting to know local farmers, researching nutrition etc. There are sooo many great local and organic vegetables still available at the farmer's market. It's great to load up on veggies every Saturday!

96 Posts

@Reader62 thanks for the reminder. Now I recall that while undergoing RT everything had to be low fiber. The technicians joked that they tell us to eat everything they normally tell us not to eat and avoid all the stuff (fiber) they normally tell us to eat. Green beans, Special K (zero fiber!), white bread, pasta, pineapple (about the only low fiber fruit), Jello, puddings. Hard to eat “healthy food” while undergoing RT that involves the abdomen. Even Cheerios were on the “do not eat list”. Strange experience. Glad it's over.

580 Posts

As far back as I can remember there has always been a lot less talk in general about Prostate Cancer. Men just did not take about it. Men tend to be less vocal about what is happening done there anyway. Our male pride I think tends to get in the way.

This also is the first time that I have heard that men have taken their lives.

This is an extremely hard health situation to know what to say. It is Cancer and should be high on the list for breakthrough new treatments.

Being a man with a unique viewpoint am sad for those men who have to go though this Physical and Mental Trauma.

I cannot completely understand, I am not you but I do understand my own feelings with my own tramas.

The choices I make impact so many, I try to make more right than wrong.

Still moving forward, Speedystill

580 Posts

I previously responding to DSJ post on prostrate cancer.

Diet The Cancer Center when I went thought my Non Hodgins Lyphoma had a dietian on staff. Everyones diet is specific to their situation. I have a long history with IBS so stomach issues can be a problem for me.

One thing I knew was I had to eat a well balanced diet to build back the blood cells for my next Chemo Regiment.

My IBS has gotten worse as I have been getting older. For me the biggest trigger is stress and anxiety. I have been though for the last few years on Low FODMAP specifically for IBS sufferers. It eliminates all the hard to digest foods.

Please do not start any food program until you discuss everything with your Doctors!!!!!!!!

Always moving forward one step at a time Speedystill

152 Posts

This is why I do “fasting” and am so focused on loosing weight and why I do keto. In my research on food intake during a period of feeling unwell, our bodies naturally want to go into a “fasting” period to regroup and heal. Like when you have a flu bug or have eaten something “off”. So I found out that during my ketogenic diet, I have been on the IBRANCE treatment and in the week of recuperation, I tried a 36 hour fast just having water. After 14 hours the body starts to dip into its own fat stores which begins autophagy. At about 22 hours if I remember correctly, the body begins to make, regenerate its own “stem cells” . So what I am trying to figure out is do these NEW STEM CELLS cause the cancer to mutate more of cancer cells or does it make and remain healthy cells like in a normal person who has no cancer? I discovered that there is yet not enough conclusive evidence either way. Only due to not enough testing is done. I want to participate in further re testing and research to possibly help others in this area. IF I have to die of cancer, I CERTAINLY WANT TO MAKE IT WORTHWHILE . To help others possibly survive longer. I certainly LOVE my food, and yet have no problem with fasting for 40 hours in one period. No lightheadedness, no dizzyness, no cramps, no head aches. When I break my fast, I use home made bone broth. And I do use a bit of sodium in my water that I drink during the fasting period to keep up my sodium levels that are naturally excreted through urination. I would not suggest doing a fast unless you consult with your doctors first.

I hope I am permitted to share this info, if its not, please delete.

Here is some further info:

Fasting and Cancer

Medically reviewed by Christina Chun, MPH — Written by Taylor Griffith — Updated on September 29, 2018

Fasting as a treatment for cancer

Fasting, or not eating food for an extended period of time, is well-known as a religious diet practice. But some are also beginning to use it for specific health benefits. Over the past several years, many studies have been published showing that intermittent fasting or a fasting-mimicking diet can reduce risk factors for and reverse symptoms of serious health conditions including cancer.

What is intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting is fasting on a schedule, alternated with times of eating. For example, you may eat normally for most of the week, but on Tuesdays and Thursdays only eat for an 8-hour period and fast for the remaining 16 hours. Some also call this a fasting-mimicking diet.

Although it seems unusual in modern society where food is abundant, the human body is built to accommodate times when food sources are scarce. In history, fasting has often been necessary in the face of famine or other natural disasters that limit food supply.

How fasting works

Your body is designed to protect you against starvation. To do this, it stores a reserve of the nutrients needed to survive when you eat.

When you’re not eating normally, this puts the cells under mild stress, and your body begins to release those stores to fuel itself. Doctors suggestTrusted Source that as long as your body has time to heal itself after this period of stress, you won’t experience negative effects.

One of the most immediate results of this type of diet is weight loss, since your body is using more calories than it’s taking in.

It’s important to be careful about fasting for an extended period of time that your body cannot handle. Complete or continuous fasting will trigger “starvation mode,” in which your body starts slowing down to prolong your life. This typically begins after three days of continuous fasting. During this fasting period of more than three days, your body will hold on to fuel stores as much as possible, and you won’t notice weight loss.

The science behind fasting and cancer

Weight loss is just one benefit of intermittent fasting for a normal healthy (disease-free) adult. Recent animal studies and a few preliminary human trials have shown a decrease in risk for cancer or a decrease in cancer growth rates. These studies indicate this may be due to the following effects from fasting:

  • decreased blood glucose production
  • stem cells triggered to regenerate the immune system
  • balanced nutritional intake
  • increased production of tumor-killing cells

In one studyTrusted Source of time-restricted feeding during 9–12 hour phases, fasting was shown to reverse the progression of obesity and type 2 diabetes in mice. Obesity is a major risk factor for cancer, which may support fasting to treat cancer.

A second studyTrusted Source of mice showed that a bimonthly fasting-mimicking diet reduced the incidence of cancer. Results were similar in a pilot trial by the same scientists with 19 humans; it showed decreased biomarkers and risk factors for cancer.

In a 2016 studyTrusted Source, research showed that a combination of fasting and chemotherapy slowed the progression of breast cancer and skin cancer. The combined treatment methods caused the body to produce higher levels of common lymphoid progenitor cells (CLPs) and tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes. CLPs are the precursor cells to lymphocytes, which are white blood cells that migrate into a tumor and are known for killing tumors.

The same study noted short-term starvation makes cancer cells sensitive to chemotherapy while protecting normal cells, and it also promoted the production of stem cells.

1207 Posts

Thank you @Hazewind > I found this excellent resource from MPH Chan specific to cancer missing meals or eating with diabetes too not advised by those in medical . I think I may try Ozempic med Suggested .

I seem to be emaciating in certain areas limbs muscle not strong , but not the stomach omentum or hip fat or the one boob LOL . Would need a cancer personal trainer to exercise I had excellent in Pilates helped my back spine pelvic pain . I am looking awful and distorted body hiding it well with certain clothes layers that a Nepal shop has here . .Fasting happens anyways on this cancer treatment .

I want to do my regular swims but be warm rehab pool to tone those fatty distortions . As spas grotto pool is expensive , ~ public pool close by closed or further and cold . I am trying to copy this for my profile page to refer to . How did you find this resource ? https://www.healthline.com/reviewers/christina-chun-mph

152 Posts

@elle29 I found this and many more like this article through the research I was doing. Cancer and Fasting. How many people here mentioned some research of Stem Cells and Cancer. Fasting up to a certain degree helps the body create it's own stem cells. Some where between 18 hours and up to 48 hours give or take. Also, I was originally PreDiabetic, though not yet on insulin. My doctor told me I had 3 months to try to reduce the effects of prediabetes. During my Chemo time, I had lots of time with studying and changing my habits of eating. The first thing I did was eliminate all processed Sugar including honey, molasses, maple syrup, corn syrup. I stopped eating donuts, breads, buns, potatotes, all forms of wheat products like flour, rice, pasta and that alone made a huge difference in my prediabetes indicators. Then I slowly began to try and make Ketogenic sweets using Almond flour, and coconut flours, I'm using Erythitol/Monkfruit (Lakanto Brand) in my coffee, tea, and baking. Those things alone brought be out of PreDiabetes. My doctor was thrilled, though she was initially doubtful that I would stick with it. We don't do Hard Core Keto. We do go to 50grams of Carbs/day. Hard core, Clinical Keto is less then 10grams/carbs/day. Even if you go down to 100 grams of Carb will help you in reducing your diabetes under the guidance of your doctor or nutritionist. Once people understand how it works and can control their food/carb intake, it's not that difficult. Diabetes is just as bad as Cancer and can be a death sentence. I truly hope this helps explain things. I'm hoping that my own stem cells can help rebuild my mutated cancer cells after they are eliminated by the Ibrance etc…

1207 Posts

Chicken salad sandwiches bc I am still on treatment .

152 Posts

@Elle29, your question:How did you find this resource ? https://www.healthline.com/reviewers/christina-chun-mph.

Sorry I have absolutely no comment on the above resource as I have no experience with this.

I only follow what I have learned through my own experiences.

We have been sticking with the Ketogenic way since 6th Oct 2019 and loosing weight in all areas of my body. My bra sizes have gone down, though who really cares in this age ? Nobody around to judge, nobody to impress. Though I have always strictly kept myself neat and tidy and have not ever cared what people thought about my body.

My only focus is preventing feeding cancer. Reducing my weight to a proper Body Mass under 25 %. Obesity feeds cancer! Sugar feeds cancer. We need to stop eating the foods that are startchy as our bodies convert that to sugar then stored in our fat cells. If we want to stop the cancer we need to help our bodies to fight back by NOT eating all those bad carbs, starches and sugars to the best of our ability.

As far as muscles, by eating the correct amounts of protien (if I remember 25% of your daily intake), focusing in fatty fish, and chicken with skin on should keep your muscles intact. We also have our own recumbent bicycle and an old treadmill I am using for brisk walking only. Working my way up to 8km. I ha 3lb and 5lb weights for my legs and arms. Also I alternate days to every other day for exercising. Its best to give your body a break in between.

Also some meds prevent weight loss like my gabapentin Im on so I have we work harder to make my weight drop.

I hope this helps.

please dont worry about what your body looks like. Focus on SURVIVAL

7 Posts

A good diet and immune support are very important. Lots of dark blue grapes, mushrooms, vegetables, walnuts and fruits every day. This diet is supposed to help fight cancer and support a good immune system and help keep you healthy. I keep a bowl of walnuts and DARK blue grapes to snack at during the day. A cup of raspberries and blueberries every evening for a snack is an excellent way to good health and keeps you regular naturally. I didn't have surgery because I was in stage 1V nsclc right from the start because the cancer was supposed to have metastasis from left lung to right. I was on Chemo and Keytruda for 4 treatments and now Keytruda for 2 years if the side effects don't do me in. I've had 2 bad side effects, one almost did me in with a rash and the other coughing up blood clots. I'm working on preparing for death in the back of my mind. I remember what my father went through, I have the same lung cancer my father died from and I'm 2 years older 71 than he was. There was very little treatment when my father had lung cancer.

All the very best, Boby1511


320 Posts

Fruit and vegetables….except during radiation….

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