Broken Bones

I’ve been lucky through my life in the fact that I have never had a broken bone. When I was young I crashed my bicycle on “suicide hill” and only bashed my head up a little. In my early driving career I was in a head-on collision, and a horrific motorcycle accident walking away from both just a bit banged up. I’ve fallen down stairs, ski hills, bike paths, and all the normal places you can crash. My mother always yelled at me to slow down, “You’ll break a leg!”

broken-leg-cartoon

A few weeks ago my luck ran out. I was skiing with my family and didn’t quite get in the chairlift, and was promptly thrown out landing with my full weight on my hand. Even though I never experienced a broken bone before (I’ve had several sprains) I knew immediately that I had broken my wrist. The pain was quite incredible and I could guess a knife stabbed into my arm might hurt a little worse (but I don’t want to find out if that’s true or not).

After a ride off the mountain on a rescue sled, a couple hours in the ski patrol shack*, and then down to the ER near home, I found myself in a splint and no use of my left hand (I’m right-handed so that is one good thing that came out of it). Until now, I never realized how many simple activities required two hands. Putting on socks, tying a shoe, pulling on pants, buttoning a shirt, styling hair, or cutting food for a meal. As the days went by I found more and more things I struggled with. The challenge of shuffling through papers was made worse by my inability to stack them back into a neat pile and refile them.

I’m thankful that broken bones heal pretty fast. I have regained dexterity in my fingers, and have gone from a plaster splint (sorry no pictures of that behemoth!),

to a beautiful purple fiberglass cast,

purple-cast

and now a removable cast complete with a zipper.

removeable-cast

 

 

 

 

My challenge to shower and dress myself has become easier.

My take away from this is that I have a strong appreciation for the challenges faced by people who permanently do not have the use of one hand. I have been introduced to the frustrations that continue every day for them. I salute them and their resolve to get through the minor things in life, that become major, with the use of only one hand.

————————

*I want to take a moment to say THANK YOU to the Loveland Ski Patrol. What a wonderful group of volunteers.  Within minutes I was surrounded by carrying and concerned people. My ride down the mountain was smooth,and my stay in the ski patrol shack was actually, kind of fun! THANK YOU for taking such good care of me!!

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Dragon Naturally Speaking

I just bought the software, and thought it would be rather fun to try and do a single blog post without editing without doing anything that that Dragon Naturally Speaking can’t do. So here it is, a single stream of consciousness type of post without using the keyboard. As you read this remember that I’m not using the keyboard I am not making any corrections in my editing so therefore this post will be a little clumsy.

I just got the software yesterday. Install it on my computer. And found it didn’t work. Way? Okay that word that last word was supposed to be “really”. While actually the software did work, it was just my headset. So once I got my regular headset one that actually works, the software kicked into action. My first attempt was to post something on Facebook, doesn’t that just figure? Doesn’t everyone post on Facebook first when they’re trying something new? Pretty simple stuff. I was able to do a post with a little bit of help from my keyboard.

So this is my next test on the software. So far, making this post has worked out quite well. Most of the words I have spoken have come out correctly without with the exception of “the word above” really”. Okay too many quotes. I haven’t quite figured out how to backspace and delete yet so I will work on that one. Back to the subject at hand. It really does pick up the voice quite well, as you can see there have only been a couple of mistakes in this post I’m quite happy with it.

What I find the hardest is when I see mistakes and have to backup or erase or delete or whatever I have not quite figured out how to do that yet. Also being sure that I have all of my punctuation in their quick correctly has not worked perfectly either. Trying to think of what I’m going to say, plus adding punctuation has challenged my brain a little bit.

I will continue to use and learn this program, and work to improve my dictation skills. I find the more clearly I speak, and the more precise my enunciation is, the better the software works. if you are considering purchasing a speech to text type of software I find that this one seems to work extremely well. Although, I don’t have a lot of experience or comparisons to this software. I feel pretty impressed with what I’ve seen so far. Dragon Naturally Speaking is a software that does seem to truly know what you’re saying.

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What? Really?

In our house, Easter is a little bit of a non-holiday. I don’t think either of my kids have been to an Easter service. For myself, it has been many, many years. We do have Easter baskets and the Easter Bunny gets a bit of candy and other goodies into them, but beyond that…not much.

My son, who is eighteen and getting ready to move out, asked me today, “What is Easter?”

I replied, “For some it is a celebration of spring, rebirth, and things new. For Christians it is a celebration of Christ’s rebirth. They believe that after Christ died on the cross, God came down and gave him the gift of being reborn.”

With a far off look in his eyes and his facial features revealing nothing, he said, “So he died and then came back to life?” I nodded. “So that means he was a zombie then. I mean, really! Isn’t that what zombies do? They die and come back to life, right? So instead of this being Easter, it’s actually National Zombie Day.”

A brilliant mind thinks of the oddest things.

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85

I’ve always been curious how many books I read in a year and in 2015 it was 85. I was surprised by the number (I actually thought I had read more than this) so I had to go over the previous years as well.

  • 2014 it was 65 books,
  • 2013 I read 56, and in
  • 2012 it was 53, then in
  • 2011 60, but
  • 2010 was the year I bought my Kindle and the end to paper books so only 2 books were read (according to my Kindle, not my library).

319 books in 5 years makes an average reading of 63.8 books per year, 5.3 per month or just over one book per week.

Of all the books I have read here are a few of my favorites (not in any particular order):

  • Scorpio Races
  • Wool (The entire Silo series was excellent but I liked Wool the best), by Hugh Howey
  • Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldon
  • Stephanie Plum series (its good for a giggle so I added it to this list) by Janet Evanovich
  • Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern
  • The Hunger Games trilogy (these are the best when all three books are read), by Suzanne Collins
  • Divergent trilogy, by Veronica Roth
  • The Uglies series, by Scott Westerfield
  • Leviathan series, by Scott Westerfield
  • Ready Player one, by Earnest Cline
  • Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell (I have to admit I loved this book but I never finished it. It hurt my brain too much.)
  • Lunar Chronicles, by Marissa Meyer
  • Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane, By Neil Gaiman
  • Lamb, by Christopher Moore
  • The Hundred Year House, by Rebecca Makkai
  • The Magicians series, by Lev Grossman
  • The Paper Magician series, by Charlie N. Holmberg
  • Once Upon a Heist, by Ashley Hodges Bazer ( I have to thank Ashley for adding this much needed humor during a time when I needed it the most).

I have enjoyed reading all 319 books and I think there was only one that was written so poorly I had to stop. I deleted it from my Kindle so it wasn’t counted.

Some of you might think I consume books, while some may read more than I, but no matter how much or how little you read, it is the fact that you are reading at all that makes the difference.

Do you have any favorites? Please add them to the list below.

 

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Flash Fiction

I love discovering new things and I recently was introduced to a style of writing called Flash Fiction. I had heard of this genre in the past, but never gave it much thought. A writing friend of mine shared a piece by Erica Satifka called, Real Plastic Trees that I had to share with you. A taste of the story is below and you can finish reading it at Fantastic Stories of the Imagination.

ENJOY!

Real Plastic Trees by Erica Satifka

Bam. Bam. Bam. I throw on my tattered blue bathrobe and hobble to the door. “Hold your horses, I’m coming.”

It’s the New Woman across the hall. Julie, she calls herself. She gets nervous if she doesn’t check in on me at least every other day, and I don’t blame her. I’m an old, old woman now. “How are you feeling today, Mrs. Delacorte?”

I sigh. “Can’t complain. Want to come in for some coffee?”

Of course she does. Julie’s kind can get nutrients from anything on this ruined Technicolor world of ours, but when given the option, they’ll always pick traditional food over Styrofoam and concrete. They’re bred that way, both to fit in with real humans and to, in some way, continue our legacy.

Earth’s dead. The neon crazy-quilt of the atmosphere sees to that. If you’re staying here, you’d better be okay with living behind a six-inch layer of reinforced glass. It’s no wonder that so many humans choose to emigrate to the extee colonies, even with all the hardships involved.

Read the rest at: Fantastic Stories of the Imagination

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Surgery and Radiation

Surgery and radiation were the final two steps in my treatment program. I have had surgery before (just last summer I blew out my knee), but for some reason this one terrified me. It was a relatively simple procedure. Many women have to have full mastectomies, but I was lucky, the tumor shrank so much that a lumpectomy was all I needed. My surgeon reassured me that I would be in and out of the hospital in half a day. Me? Well, I was still on the, “I’m going to die” wagon and I thought for sure this would be the end of me. HA! I thought every step was the end of me….. so what’s new?

As promised, I was in and out of the hospital the same day. I checked in at 6:00 am and my husband took me home at about 3:00 that same day. I was pretty sore for quite awhile afterward (I still get pain now again and it has been 4 months since surgery), and I was quite swollen and turned all kinds of black and blue. I only have the scar left now. The best news is the removal of the tumor and one lymph node was a success. They had clean parameters and only 5% of the cells had live cancer. Clinically, this is a negative result and I was declared cancer free!

Radiation came next. What an odd experience that was. They had to map the area where I would receive radiation by way of live X-ray and CT scans. I was given six tiny tattoos, each the size of a pin prick. There are three down the center of my chest, one on each side of my chest and one just above my left breast. These were for the technicians to align the radiation machine when I went in for a treatment.

Each visit I lay on a hard table with my arms in stirrups over my head. A huge machine circled over with a buzzing sound starting to my right then circling up, around, and down to my left. In all I lay there for maybe 2 minutes and I was done. Five days a week and 35 visits later I had quite the rectangular sunburn on my breast. Thank goodness for emu oil!

I have now been finished with treatment for over a month and it feels strange to be done. The biggest surprise was how I felt emotionally. I have seen movies about survivors, and I have read many stories too where the survivor has a new lease on life. They have a 360 degree turnaround, and joy pours down from the heavens and lifts their hearts and their lives to new heights. This was not quite so true for me. I have been visiting with a psychologist who specializes in cancer patients and when I told her that I was depressed and wasn’t that thrilled with my life she wasn’t surprised.

Although she wasn’t surprised, I was. It turns out that many cancer patients are actually depressed post-treatment. The way I understand it is that when  patient is given a diagnosis of cancer they go into survival mode that is cranked up full blast until they are finally done. This is when [they/we/I] have a chance to breathe and are able to work through the anxiety, depression, and grief of this illness. Prior to that it is a mind set to just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

It is now the end of October 2015. Eleven months have passed since my diagnosis and my life is now moving forward. I still have the chance of my tumor returning, yet I am working to keep that thought from dominating my ability to live, love, and laugh. As my family and I carved pumpkins today I thought about how lucky I am to be sitting at the table with my family. It was wonderfully normal.

####

This is the end of Part 4 of a multi-post story. Part 5 (the final installment) will be coming soon!

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Make a difference by donating to your charity of choice. Support the fight against Breast Cancer!

breast-cancer-ribbon

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Treatment

Enduring the route of traditional medicine, for me, was the best choice for this type of cancer. Aggressive cancer had to be treated with aggressive medications. Chemotherapy followed by a surgery of some kind (lumpectomy or mastectomy – depending on the chemo results), then radiation treatments. The entire process would start late December and end sometime in August. Eight months. Eight very long months.

On December 23 my first treatment was administered. Two drugs, Paclitaxel and the study drug, were given via IV through a port that was surgically inserted under the skin of my chest wall. It was all very sci-fi. Sitting in a recliner with intense drugs dripping into my body. It made me think of the song “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons (this is a better version of the video IMHO). I felt like it was the end of days, breathing in all the chemicals, becoming radioactive (no, chemotherapy is NOT radioactive). Very surreal to say the least. “Radioactive” became my theme song for the next 7 months.

Every week I joined 20-30 other people in treatment. We were all there for different cancers, but to think that everyday of the week up to 40 people could be in the infusion room being treated for some kind of cancer. The treatment center consisted of a long hall with treatment bays jutting off on both sides. The hall, with forty bays, forty recliners, treating up to forty people, stretched out in front of me, yet compressing into me at the same time.  My perspective on how rampant cancer is has changed forever.

Earlier I mentioned a study drug. I thought I should give page time to this study. When I learned of all the possible treatments I faced (there were actually not very many choices) my oncologist also told me about a study drug in the final phase of testing before FDA approval. The trial, called i-Spy 2, was an added drug that gave an extra “kick” to the standard taxol. I have always supported non-profits that helped in finding cures for all cancers (especially the American Cancer Society) and now I could put my best breast – or foot – forward because I was the research. It is amazing to see the strides that have been made to find the cure for so many cancers and I am impressed by how far treatments have come. It is through clinical trials, like i-Spy2, that have helped move research forward.

Treatment itself was fairly straight forward. The docs checked my blood, my weight, and my vitals to be sure I was in good shape. Then I headed down to the center, took a seat and waited for the nurse. I was given anti-nausea meds, antihistamines, then the taxel and the study drug. It all took 3-4 hours and then I went home. I felt fine for the first 3 days, then, every week, on day 3 I would start to feel the drugs’ effects. I got quite tired (sleeping for 12-15 hours was new for me) and felt some stomach upset, but never really got overly sick. I was lucky, and I did what my doctor told me; walk as much as you can, was the prescribed exerciser program. I was also to continue with Pilates for as long as I could. So, I walked. Some days I made three miles and some days I made it across the living room.No matter how far I got, I walked nearly EVERYDAY.

I firmly believe that walking was the key to keeping my side effects to a minimum. What I did get were rashes. At one point I had rashes on my rashes. The effects would last 3-4 days and just as I started to feel better the routine would start all over again. This went on for 12 weeks.

Then the big guns were pulled out; Doxorubicin (Adriamycin) and Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxin) commonly referred to as A/C, were the second set of drugs I was given. I don’t recall ever being so sick in my life (although when I had viral meningitis…that was a close second to this). The effects hit immediately following the infusion and lasted, to some degree or another, right up to the next infusion. By the forth, and last,  treatment I thought I would never be able to move again, and I was completely bald (bald is defined here as: every hair on every square inch from my toes to the top of my head was gone…just think about all the places you have hair.) I also had chemo-brain so badly that I could barely string a sentence together. I had to quit driving. Everything hurt and if I still had hair I’m sure that would have hurt as well.

All of this sounds quite miserable (and it was…more like a living hell actually), BUT it saved my life. Back in November I thought I was going to die. If the cancer didn’t kill me, I was sure the treatment would. After 16+ weeks of medical treatments, another biopsy, and two more MRIs,  the tumor had shrunk to half its original size, and the lymph node was back to normal size. Surgery and the biopsy results would be the final curtain call.

 ####

This is the end of Part 3 of a multi-post story. Part 4 will be coming soon!

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Make a difference by donating to your charity of choice. Support the fight against Breast Cancer!

breast-cancer-ribbon

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Decisions for the Rest of My Life

After all the poking and prodding, the diagnosis was not the best news. Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. The good news; this is the most common type of breast cancer and a lot is known about it. The bad news; “triple negative” and aggressive. Triple Negative means that there are no hormonal influences that produced the tumor so I could not receive non-chemo treatment. How aggressive? On a scale of 1-4 (4 being the most aggressive) mine was a 3.

My research began in earnest. I read cancer blogs, articles, research papers, and watched videos about the benefits of traditional medicine vs alternative medicine. In a short week I felt I knew more about breast cancer than I would have otherwise learned in a normal lifetime.

I really only had two choices for treatment. (Well, actually three choices, but the “doing nothing and dying” was immediately taken off the table for discussion. I had too much living left to do.) I could follow an alternative path by making extreme changes in my life choices (a strict, and extreme diet change along with intense daily exercise) and the chance that the cancer would stabilize or even go away (also a chance it would continue to grow). Or, I could follow the doctor’s recommendation of chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation treatments. I had very little time to make a decision.

Both sides of the argument were convincing. On the one side I could change everything about my lifestyle (eating, sleeping, exercise and diet). The experts said that this approach shifts the Ph balance in the body to make it a toxic environment for cancer to survive. There is science to support alternative medicines and lifestyle changes. I read about several people who have kept their cancer under control with these aggressive changes. Yet, the alternative route was a little frightening to me. What if it didn’t work? What if the cancer spread and I faced a more grim prognosis? Could I really make that extreme of a change in my lifestyle?

On the flip side was chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation which are strongly supported by science, yet the side effects aren’t pretty. These highly toxic treatments do kill the invading cells, but I ran the risk of having side effects that could pop up anytime in my life. First, it might not work, or it might only have partial success. Then there is the possibility of secondary cancers from the radiation, or the side effects of the chemo could be debilitating. Not to mention the inherent dangers in any type of surgery.

 I was depressed, in shock, and horribly confused. I had no clue what to do. Both arguments had pluses and minuses. My husband and I talked endlessly about what to do and we found ourselves returning to the same place of indecision. One evening, I talked at length with a practitioner of acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. He shared his professional experiences with me at length. Then, he shared one final thought with me and it went something like this, “I have treated many, many patients with cancer. I helped them follow the alternative treatments as well as the traditional treatments with acupuncture and herbal remedies. To be brutally honest with you, the only ones alive today are the ones who followed the traditional treatments. Everyone else is dead.”

My decision was made. On December 23, 2014, I began my journey down the long road of chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation.

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This is the end of Part 2 of a multi-post story. Part 3 will be coming soon.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Make a difference by donating to your charity of choice. Support the fight against Breast Cancer!

breast-cancer-ribbon

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Facing Death Changes Everything about Living

Halloween was over and gearing up for Thanksgiving should have been a piece of cake. Last year, I didn’t make anything for Thanksgiving. I was a “no show” for Christmas, New Years, Easter, my birthday, and Mother’s Day. I didn’t make it to any of the celebrations between November 15, 2014 and June 15, 2015.

Facing death does a funny thing when it comes knocking. It changes everything about living. On November 15, 2014 I was diagnosed with Stage 2, invasive breast cancer. The “BIG-C” knocked on my door. It was the last thing I could imagine to show up. My family’s health history is healthy, hearty, and we live forever. Nope. “I’ll never get cancer,” is what I always thought. When I received the news my world tipped over in a blur. It landed on its side and everything spewed out onto the floor. I stood over the mess of my life with an empty stare. My gaping mouth wouldn’t close and my knuckles dragged along the ground. The news pulled me to my knees and I wailed like never before.

Life’s joke was on me this time, and the questions started to tumble through my mind. What happened? What did I do wrong? Wasn’t I living a good, moral life? Had I laughed about exercise too long? Was my diet so horrible that my body broke? What do I do now?

I was forced to face this head on. I had no choice. Breast Cancer would kill me just as surly as if I were hit by a train going 60 miles an hour, only I’d die a much more slow and painful death. I had nine months to a year if I did nothing. A year and a half on the outside. Somewhere I found a bit of strength that was buried deep inside my soul. It was a tiny spark. The one that people tap into whenever they face a crisis. The blind faith that promises everything will turn out as it should. It was the light of that small flame that got me through those first few weeks.

In the short time between my diagnosis and the start of Chemo I was poked, prodded, photographed, MRI’ed, CAT scanned, biopsied, and looked at by more people than I could have imagined possible. I consulted with doctors, nurses, friends, relatives, and (of course) the internet. Friends volunteered their stories of mastectomies, lumpectomies, chemo therapy, radiation, lymph nodes and reconstructive surgeries. They told me about the many who survived and the few that didn’t. I went vegan, then raw, then I got sick from changing my diet. I found a new taste for freshly squeezed vegetable juice ( in case you are wondering, kale juice is really gross). Organic foods filled the cupboards and exercise was no longer a 4-lettered word.

My life was changed forever. There was no going back…only forward. For a short time, I flayed through each day without direction or focus. Time was not what I had an abundance of. I wanted to know what my options were. I had to do a LOT of research. I needed a lot of information in a very short period. I had to decide if I would follow the traditional treatments or some other, alternative, method.

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This is the end of Part 1 of a multi-post story.

Look for Part 2, “Decisions for the Rest of My Life”, coming soon!

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Make a difference by donating to your charity of choice. Support the fight against Breast Cancer! 

breast-cancer-ribbon

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The Yampa*

The wagon train had left her station hours ago. She had worked through the rest of the day cleaning the horse dung and the human stench from the walls. Once a month they came through, sometimes twice in a month, and Margo never got used to it. The humans had a smell about them that reminded her of the dead rats she found in the barn sometimes.

Satisfied, she went back upstairs then out the window to sit on the roof. This is where she spent most of her time staring into the sky wishing for home. In the years spent in the southern hemisphere she could see her home cluster in the night sky, but here in the north she could only see the local sun. Only ten more years and she could go back south. Ten more years of being in this dust bowl serving the wagon trains that kept pushing to the west carrying those petty humans into the frontier.

Stirring out of her own mind she turned to go back inside. Mid-stride Margo met the blunt end of a shotgun in the gut. “Hello Margo. Been a long time wouldn’t you say?”

“Kate. What in tarnation are you doing here? How did you find me?”

“You are a slippery one Margo. I’ve been hunting you for the past couple of centuries. I have to admit you found yourself one hell of a place to hide. How did you find this dump anyway?”

Pushing past her, Margo went back through the window. “Believe it or not, I crashed here. Been stranded for at least a couple hundred years.”

“Come on Margo. You can’t expect me to believe that you, our top pilot, crashed on this rock. You’ll need a better excuse than that.”

“You know me Kate. Weird shit happens.”

“Weird shit my ass. Is that your excuse for the string of dead bodies you left all over the home cluster? Is that your excuse for decimating Corkerelle? Give me a break.”

Margo couldn’t help but laugh a little bit. “You have no idea do you Kate? You have spent all this time looking for me and never stopped to wonder if it was really me? Wake up Kate. Look around you. What do you see?”

“What are you talking about Margo?”

“I’ve been here for eons watching these humans scrape across their globe. They drag their sorry souls over the land and darken every corner of it. Right now, they drive their wagon trains out west in a thirst for riches and in their wake; they leave only a stench and rot. Did you smell the trash heap on your way in? Did you see what they do? Doesn’t it look even a little familiar? How long ago did Corkerelle happen? Think about it Kate, could I, one solitary being really destroy an entire planet? Think back, Kate. Remember what it smelled like?”

The shotgun began to weigh more than Kate remembered when she first pointed it at Margo. “They came here, didn’t they? They came here to do it all over again didn’t they?”

“Oh, they’ll try alright, but there will be bloody hell to pay before they can cross the Yampa.”

*****

They had celebrated that night once they arrived at the edge of the Yampa. It had been a long trek across the eastern plains and everyone was ready for fresh water and time to dance. They had made it. Living to see the Yampa River was all they had prayed for and here they were. Smiles were served all around and the music played late into the night.

The warmth of the rising sun pushed the gentle breeze through the camp. The air licked at the canvas capes that draped each wagon ruffling the bare threads. The horses had long left the area along with the cattle. A few stray dogs were all that remained behind. Silence filled the morning breeze. The celebrations from the night before were just echoes fading into the distance. Crawling out of the red masses, the tiny machines had done their job and marched back toward the water. The next wagon train was due in just a week and they needed time to recharge.

*The Yampa originally appeared on the blog: KJ Scrim, Writer and is used here with permission from the author.

© KJ Scrim 2015 – All rights reserved – No part of this story may be used or reproduced, graphic, electronic,or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping, or my any information storage retrieval system without written permission from the Author.

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