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Edmonton couple covered in tumours want strangers to see past the bumps




Gail Appelgren has been denied access to public swimming pools and detained at the airport.

In grocery stores, she has been told not to touch the fruit.

Thousands of tumours cover her body. Strangers can be cruel.

« I’ve had people circle me at Costco, and pray over me in the middle of shopping, » Appelgren said in an interview Friday with CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM. « I’ve had people call me ‘wart face.' »

« A lady, while I was waiting for coffee the other day, said, ‘When you die and see God, you won’t have those bumps and you’ll be beautiful.’

« And I said, ‘Well, I think I’m beautiful now’ and she shook her and said, ‘No, no you’re not.' »

Gail Appelgren undergoes multiple procedures a year to manage her most painful tumours. (Gail Appelgren)

Appelgren and her husband Tim Golumbia both have neurofibromatosis (NF), a rare genetic disorder which attacks the nervous system and causes tiny tumours to develop all over the body.

Only one in 3,000 people will inherit the progressive condition.

The Edmonton couple are sharing their stories with the hope of reducing the stigma around their condition.

« We are not contagious, » said Appelgren, a retired social worker. « Please do not be afraid of us, even though we look like we have something scary.

« I have appreciation for people’s reactions, that they come from a place of fear, and that’s part of the reason we want to get out there and share this. » 

‘You’re not alone’ 

Many people with NF avoid leaving their homes out of fear of being ridiculed by strangers, Appelgren said.

She wishes people would ask about her condition instead of recoiling.

« It creates a lot of anxiety and depression in people because of the reaction and the fear of being stared at or being called names.

« I want to let people who have NF, you’re not alone. »  

Gail Appelgren as a young girl. She began showing symptoms as an infant but wouldn’t receive a diagnosis until she was 14. (Gail Appelgren)

Appelgren, 57, began showing symptoms as an infant. At 14, as a large tumour on her chest grew to an alarming size and the bumps on her skin began to multiply, her condition was finally diagnosed by her family doctor.

« When I was born, I had a tumour or a mass on the left side of my chest and it grew as I grew, » Appelgren said.

« The doctors at the time didn’t know what I had, they just kept saying, it’s a birthmark, it’s a birthmark. »

Despite numerous surgeries to remove the mass, it kept growing back. Appelgren said each operation was risky and she nearly died from blood loss during one procedure.

She now has hundreds of thousands of tumours. They cover every inch of her skin.

Tumours caused by neurofibromatosis are usually benign but related medical complications can be painful and life-threatening.

There is no cure and medical treatment is minimal. 

Appelgren continues to have multiple procedures each year to manage her pain. The mass on her chest eventually became so large, she had to have some of her ribs removed.

« I’ve probably had about 40 surgeries over the years to have the tumours removed, » she said. 

Gail Appelgren at 14, when she was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis. (Gail Appelgren)

Appelgren and Golumbia got together thanks to a little luck and a matchmaking colleague.

In 2010, Golumbia, a social worker with the Alberta government, was working in Nanaimo, B.C., when he made a call to the children’s services office in Edmonton about a case.

When he mentioned that he used his bumps as an icebreaker during his work with young children, the woman on the other line was intrigued.

The woman had worked with Appelgren for years and was always trying to set her up on dates.

After meeting through a matchmaking colleague, Appelgren and Golumbia were married in 2014. (Gail Appelgren)

Soon, the would-be matchmaker was barging into Appelgren’s office, with her thumbs up.

« She came running, » Appelgren recalled. « She had Tim’s name written down on a piece of paper with the word neurofibromatosis.

« She said, ‘I know I tried to fix you up one other time and it didn’t work out, but I have a good feeling.

‘He’s about your age, he cheers for those Roughriders like you do, he’s from Saskatchewan, I think this is going to work out.' »

Appelgren and Golumbia spoke over the phone the following day.  A month later, Golumbia sent her flowers and they arranged to meet.

« We talked every night, for an hour every night, and we found out that we had so much in common, » Appelgren said.

« We worked at some of the same places at different times, went to the same school in Saskatoon, drove the same vehicles, had Coca-Cola collections. » 

They were married in August 2014. Golumbia proposed by serenading her with Annie’s Song, an ode to their shared love for songwriter John Denver. 

The people who know me don’t see the bumps anymore.– Gail Appelgren

Golumbia, 55, said his wife has never let her condition affect her confidence. She doesn’t cover up and refuses to hide away.

It’s one of the things about her he loves best.

« She lies on the beach with a bathing suit on and doesn’t care what people say, look or do, » Golumbia said.  

« That’s just who she is. »

Appelgren credits her husband and friends for allowing her to see past her bumps.

She hopes, with a little understanding, others will be able to do the same.

« The people who know me don’t see the bumps anymore, » she said. « They just see Gail, which is what I see. When I look in the mirror, I don’t see them. »  


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Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme




Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year




In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal




MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.


The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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