A Tale Of Two Boobs: The Finale

So for those of you who missed the first few installments of “A Tale of Two Boobs”, this is a series of posts about my struggle with breastfeeding. I felt this primal urge to breastfeed my BG, and I put my body through hell to make it happen.

Well now, 2.5 years later, I have finally weaned BG.

I haven’t nursed her at all in 3 days. It was time–I had only been nursing on my “business boob” for months, as my “casual boob” was never a good producer anyways. And the milk in “business boob” had been reduced to a trickle within the last few weeks. I don’t know why exactly, maybe my hormones shifting as I’m weaning off the Prednisone. Maybe the Stelara. But both BG and I were ready and in a good place to stop, so it doesn’t really matter what the catalyst was.

As I lay here with cabbage leaves tucked into my tank top (a trick to help dry up your milk), I can reflect fondly on my breastfeeding relationship with BG, without any tears. I’m ok that we’re done breastfeeding. I feel like “my work here is done”. Often it’s emotional for moms to quit breastfeeding, and after how emotional I was and how desperately I wanted to do it, you’d think I’d be heartbroken. But I’m not.

I feel relieved that weaning happened organically, and did not end in dramatics (as you know I am prone to dramatics). I’m grateful that my chronic illness didn’t dictate my breastfeeding relationship with BG–I breastfed her through all the turmoil during the past 8+ months of my flare. It would have been traumatic if my milk had dried up while I was hospitalized. This flare shook up my relationship with BG, and breastfeeding was one thing that I was able to continue to do for her even when I was otherwise incapacitated. It was our foundation.

I shared countless tender moments with BG while breastfeeding. I will always treaaure the memories… sitting in the rocking chair in her nursery, light streaming in, rocking for hours and just staring at her in my arms (propped up on the boppy pillow–we got more than our moneys worth outta that thing). I remember breastfeeding her under the trees on the beach in Costa Rica, while a mommy monkey and baby monkey played right above us, and the sound of the ocean lulled us to sleep. There were also lots of backseat breastfeeding sessions in the car–sitting in the target parking lot. And all the times BG needed comfort–when she was scared of a thunderstorm or in pain because she was teething–that I was able to comfort her by breastfeeding her. It was such a relief to me to be able to pop a boob in her mouth and instantly make her feel better.

It’s been such a journey. I didn’t really even want to breastfeed before BG was born–it just seemed so foreign to me. But from the moment they placed her on my chest it’s all I wanted to do, as a way to love and protect and provide for her.

Through excruciating nipple injuries and mastitis. Through a struggle with low supply and taking ALL the herbs and finally, Domeperidone. I have no doubt that all the antibiotics I took and the Domperidone contributed to my current flare. But I don’t regret any of it.

My BG is healthy as can be–only had a handful of colds and I nursed her through those. I know that my milk helped to build and support her immune system. I believe that she will be spared the autoimmune issues that I am plagued with. That’s priceless to me.

I really don’t think that everyone should struggle to breastfeed the way I did. Obviously, there are plenty of healthy, happy kids out there that were given formula. We as mothers have to follow our own paths and no two will be exactly alike. I never, ever want to make another mother feel bad for how she feeds her baby!

But for me, I am so grateful that I was able to breastfeed BG. I never imagined how difficult it would be–the amount of tears that I would shed as I struggled through pain, frustration, guilt and worry. I couldn’t fathom the amount of joy I would feel as I cradled her in my arms and breastfed her for countless hours…I wouldn’t trade a single second of it.

But it’s ok that we’re done. I still cradle her, carry her, hold her and rock her. She still falls asleep nestled in the crook of my arm with her head on my chest. We say “I love you” to each other 1,000x per day and we smother each other in hugs and kisses. We have evolved, but no love is lost.

XOXO,
MLACS

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I Need To Let Go But I Can’t

UPDATE:

Saw IBD Specialist and the Colorectal Surgeon this past Monday. There were some surprises.

1. IBD Specialist says if the Stelara does not work (and by “work” she means get/keep me in remission without prednisone) then she said my “only other options” are a clinical trial of a drug (cannot remember the name but started with a “p”) OR surgery…then she told me I don’t even qualify for the clinical trial so that leaves…surgery. M’kay then. I didn’t bother asking her why she changed her tune (initially she said I could try entyvio, xeljanx, etc.) because I had already resigned myself to surgery if Stelara doesn’t work. But I was taken aback that she straight up told me surgery is my only other option.

2. I have been “stuck” at 25mg prednisone for 3 weeks now and still having blood/urgency/straining/rectal pain/lower back pain/joint and muscle pain…I still have enough energy to live my life though and TBH vicodin has been my go-to for my aches and pains because all I need is 1/2 a pill and I feel fine. These aches and pains are only going to get worse as I wean off the prednisone and I don’t want to be reliant to painkillers, so I’m looking into Charlotte’s Web CBD oil. But more importantly, IBD Specialist said she’s ok if I wait 2 weeks post-my next Stelara injection to drop 2.5mg, but…

3. IBD Specialist wants to see me in 4 weeks and if I’m still struggling to wean off the prednisone then BOOM it’s time to schedule surgery. I was like “Um, I do not want to deal with this right now so can we schedule surgery for after the holidays? I mean, it takes a couple months to get on the schedule, right??” Thinking no big deal so long as I’m stable…but IBD Specialist’s eyes got all big and she practically shouted “NO!” She said she doesn’t want me on the steroids that long and surgery can usually be scheduled within 2 weeks time. I was NOT ready to consider surgery in October (but if you’ve been following my story then you know I’m just not ready for surgery, period, but trying to come to terms with it). IBD Specialist reiterated what I’ve heard many times “Most people say they wish they had had the surgery sooner after they realize how much better they feel post-surgery”. Which helps. But I’m still freaked the f*ck out.

4. IBD Specialist allowed that one of her nurses could help me give myself my 1st Stelara injection at my appointment even though it was technically 4 days early. For some unknown reason, CVS Specialty pharmacy shipped my freaking Stelara to their office, even after confirming that it was to be sent to my home address like half a dozen times. Bizarre. So btw I had to let CVS know that they flucked up and they are lucky I happened to have that appointment on Monday because its a 4 hour drive round trip–CVS said they didn’t know why that happened, oops, they are sorry *sigh*.

5. I told IBD Specialist that I always respond quickly to the biologics but my problem is they wear off quickly. IBD Specialist said there is no way she can justify moving my Stelara up from every 8 weeks to every 4 weeks because there is no evidence to support it (at this time). I told her it would probably stop the blood immediately and it did, just like last time. But my thought is: really, how much time would it buy me (to avoid surgery) anyway? So not faulting her for not trying every 4 weeks.

5. Then I saw the surgeon (CRS) and I liked him a lot! Easy to talk to and he surprised me by saying…

I MIGHT be a candidate for a j-pouch!!!

WHAAAAT?!!

Ok lets not get too excited because it probably isn’t the best option for me, but I’m thrilled that he didn’t automatically take it off the table as an option the way IBD Specialist did. CRS said that he would remove the colon and send it to pathology, and if it looked like UC instead of Crohn’s then the j-pouch could be considered.

6. CRS offered that I could have a colostomy instead of a ileostomy (leaving a small part of my colon), which confused me because I thought removing the entire colon was standard. He said it used to be standard. He then said many people prefer to take the whole colon out to avoid future disease and also because the output is thicker/smelly-er
and not as desireable with a colostomy bag. I said I’d rather do the ileostomy.

7. I asked about pregnancy with a stoma and he said it is very do-able and they take care to preserve fertility by wrapping the ovaries and fallopian tubes in some sort of gauze-like material that dissolves in 2 weeks–it prevents adhesions, which are the main threat to a womans fertility by having surgery. I said “Will I have to wait like 6 months post-surgery to try?” And he said no way, as long as things go well 3-4 months is plenty of time–this was another surprise.

8. I’m scheduled to see the CRS in 4 weeks when I see IBD Specialist, but if I’m doing well he said I should cancel. He also said I would have the opportunity to meet with his stoma nurse a couple weeks prior to surgery. I told him I’d like to actually try wearing a bag prior to surgery to see how it goes and he said he hasn’t had a patient ask to do that before but he’s sure the stoma nurse could help me do it.

So I left feeling like they “sold” me on surgery. But then started looking at the literature at home and began to feel uneasy again. That’s how it is–one minute I’m gung-ho and certain the surgery will improve my quality of life and allow me to do ALL the things. The next minute I’m freaking out about wearing a bag because it is undeniably a life changing thing.

Then I saw my OBGYN on Tuesday and he said that I should feel free to go ahead and get pregnant NOW even on 25mg prednisone because “lots of women take prednisone during pregnancy and stelara is a category B drug”. Pregnancy put me into remission last time. Maybe I should just go for it even though IBD Specialist acts like it would be criminal to get pregnant on prednisone. For all you ladies, my skin “down there” is a bit thin especially around my perinium and I have not had sex since January for fear of tearing (and because I was like, dying). But OBGYN gave me some estrace (estrogen) cream as it helps to thicken the skin and helps lubrication. So, I’m feeling a little braver about sex. But will wait until I’m ovulating to try.

9. I also saw my Dermatologist on Tuesday b/c I also have peri-oral dermatitis and some strange chin acne that the doc attributed to prednisone. Of course antibiotics would be the best treatment but I cannot take those so he gave me topical creams. This is ALL owing to IBD. Crazy how it affects our body in so many (crappy) ways.

10. My current situation: The Stelara injection worked very well…for 2 days. Since then I have been bleeding with every BM, having explosive diarrhea, cramps, straining, and urgency. My frequency is about the same and not too bad, maybe toileting 5x per day (really only morning and night when I’m home, so not inconvenient) *but* my rectum is sore every time I leave the toilet–I feel the need to lay down after a BM and that is a step in the wrong direction. My energy has been crappy this week too, and Mr. MLACS made it possible for me to just lay around all day Saturday while he took BG out-and-about. I used that time to look at various ostomy blogs, watch ostomy youtube videos, and try to wrap my head around what is happening/what is going to happen to me. I cried–not a lot–but I let out a few sobs that had been trapped inside my chest. I allowed myself to think about the “what if’s”. There is SO much to think about–I have no family here and no friends I would ask for help with BG or for myself–I think if Mr. MLACS takes off 2 weeks that will be enough for me to do light activity and care for BG…what if it’s not? My surgery is at a hospital 2 hours from home so where will Mr. MLACS and BG stay for that first week while I’m in the hospital (will need them nearby)? What ostomy supplies will work for me–what do I need to buy and how much will it cost (belts, underwear, new clothes?) What if I can’t enjoy the holidays with my family? My good friend and her son are coming to spend Thanksgiving with us–what if I can’t cook the dinner I want to make for us? (I mean I can order a meal but I love to cook and this would disappoint me.) What if I fall asleep on my brand new potterybarn couch and wake up covered in sh*t because my colostomy bag burst? What if I go through this surgery with the promise of “feeling SO MUCH better” but then I don’t???
And then I go to “Is it really THAT bad? Do I really NEED the surgery? Maybe I should just try to get pregnant…but what if I don’t go into remission and things get worse?”

ALL. DAY. LONG.

These questions and feelings bounce around in my head. And furthermore, my surgeon seems competent and my hospital is nationally ranked in the top 30 for Gastroenterology–I drive about 2 hours each way to see them because they are good.
BUT.
The 2 best hospitals are Mayo Clinic (Minnesota) and Cleveland Clinic (Ohio) and I have been encouraged by other ostomates to go to one of these places for a second opinion and if I need surgery. However, I’m too beat down right now and not ready to take the time and expense to go there. I’m afraid I’ll regret it if I don’t go and things go wrong , but I just don’t have much fight left in me.

For those of you who know me, you know I’m a fighter. So if I’m THST beat down, and I am, then something has got to give.

I’m going to speak with my EFT guru next week and I bet she will be able to help me through this and have peace with whatever decision is revealed through tapping. I can’t “unscramble” myself and I need someone to guide me.

Wish me luck. Send me prayers for peace and clarity and courage. Give me any advice you have. Any inspirational quotes (I am too overwhelmed to read a book right now though). Point me towards ostomate blogs. Thanks in advance for your support.

XOXO,
MLACS

It’s Still An Uphill Battle

Hey guys. Things are ok but not great.

  1. Our house is still not finished, but they said it will really REALLY be done by the first weekend of September. It damn well better be, or they will have to answer for it.
  2. I saw the IBD Specialist a couple weeks ago and she pushed me to wean off the Prednisone quickly, regardless how I felt. I had been having symptoms again (blood, mucus, urgency, frequency) since 3-4 weeks post Stelara infusion. And as I dropped the Prednisone from 27.5 mg to 25mg, and then 25mg to 22.5mg, my symptoms continued to worsen. I “waved the white flag” and messaged the Nurse Practitioner after 2 days at 22.5mg, because I felt awful (fatigued, body aches) and moreover I was back to *running* to the toilet several times per day, straining, bleeding, rectum feeling swollen/hurting, waking in the night to toilet, etc. So the NP suggested I take my Prednisone back up to 25mg and see if it helped. And then call to make an appointment with the MA.
  3. When I called to make an appointment to see IBD Specialist, I spoke with the RN instead of the MA (the RN is not as competent as the MA but she’s very sweet). The RN started to schedule me but stopped to talk to NP and IBD Specialist. When she got back to me, she said they want me to see the Colorectal Surgeon (CRS) at my next appointment. I asked to see the CRS at my last appointment but IBD Specialist said it was pointless to discuss my perianal fistula/incontinence/thrombosed hemorrhoids at this point, because the CRS wouldn’t do anything until I’m in remission. So then, the fact that IBD Specialist was referring me to the CRS now is NOT good… She believes that I am steroid refractory and 50/50 I am failing Stelara. IBD Specialist wants to prepare me for surgery (which for me would be a permanent ileostomy).

I really, truly thought the Stelara was going to work. And in fact, I do think it works. But I need to take it every 4 weeks instead of every 8 weeks (because that’s when it wore off and I have proven to metabolize these medications quicker than most people, as evidenced by my Humira serum levels never getting above a “2” even with weekly injections and no antibodies). And IBD Specialist has *all* her patients on an every-8-week injection schedule with Stelara. So I highly doubt she will do me the favor of letting me try every 4 weeks. And I get it–how much time would it really buy me? Surgery is imminent. I just don’t want to deal with it right now. I want to move into my new house and have another baby. I want to enjoy the holidays with my family–BG is at a magical age and I want to soak up every minute of her little-ness. I’m so tired of being sick and tired though, that I’m about ready to throw in the towel and just do what they tell me (instead of researching and fighting for more options). I’m not “ready” for an ostomy, but I am really, really tired.

XOXO,

MLACS

My Potterybarn Life

So of course the house won’t be finished on schedule. My gut instinct (and plenty of experience dealing with contractors) told me as much. They said it will be a “couple more weeks” and we can deal with that–but no more than that.

Meanwhile, I have been entertaining myself by shopping both online and in stores. It’s been quite a thrill! Mr. MLACS and I agreed on a budget and he has given me carte blanche to do as I please. I’m happy to say that I have been able to buy a lot of my first choice high-end items (potterybarn, restoration hardware, crate and barrel, west elm, williams sonoma, etc.) and then some lovely modestly-priced items as well (target, wayfair, hayneedle, home goods, etc.) and even some custom pieces from etsy and local artists.

But the “pièce de résistance” is my PB comfort slipcovered custom sectional sofa in “everyday linen”. I have always dreamed of having a potterybarn slipcovered sofa and I ordered exactly what I wanted–even upgraded to the feather down filling.

I also bought a PB leather recliner that I adore because it is very stylish, but it’s really for Mr. MLACS–mostly as a decoy so he doesn’t sit his greasy a** on my PB couch when he gets home from work or comes in from playing outside with BG and the dog. Mr. MLACS has been wanting a recliner for ages, so it’s win/win for both of us.

I see my facebook newsfeed full of fiery indignance about politics/politicians/social injustice/other very important things that I should be more aware of. And I wonder if I’ve truly become a shallow person, because I give no f*cks about any of it. None. I watch cartoons all day and sing songs and play playdoh and buy groceries and sweep up gobs of pet hair and cook dinner. But do you know what really inspires me??? What really matters to me???

My muthaf*ckin’ potterybarn sofa sectional. That’s what.

Sorry to disappoint you if you thought I was better than that. I’m not.

I have literally spent hours agonizing over which throw pillows to accessorize my couch with. HOURS. Who does that???

Me. I do that.

All the pinterest’ing and online shopping has been great because it keeps me off social media (I love/hate social media–mostly hate) and gives me something to look forward to. I feel giddy every time the doorbell chimes and I see the UPS/FedEx/USPS carrier making haste toward their vehicle, because I know that means there is a special delivery for moi! BG gets excited too and loves to open the boxes with me and reveal the “prize” (BG’s short for “surprise”) inside. It never gets old for either one of us.

I could sit here and wax poetic about all the faaaaaaabulous things I’ve recently acquired (the boxes of which are cluttering my foyer and the UPS guy has to wonder WTF is going on because I can barely open the door).

But let me also enlighten you about the current state of my colon.

I will see the IBD Specialist this Thursday (so 3 days from now). I need to discuss some things with her:

  1. I’ve still got this perianal fistula. Lately it itches a bit–is that good or bad? It doesn’t hurt though. And I’m still slightly incontinent (anal leakage). So I’d like to see one of their Colorectal surgeons and get their opinion. Also, I want to know if they will do a laser fistulotomy. And if they are capable of doing a colectomy laproscopically. Sh*t I should probably already have asked, but did not have the presence of mind to even consider until recently.
  2. The Stelara is working, but I worry. I just hit the 3 week mark post-infusion and I’ve read the half-life of Stelara is 3 weeks. I woke up today with a bit of blood and mucus. Is it wearing off already? Or is this a blip on the radar? My concern about it “wearing off” is legit IMO because I “failed” Humira due to my serum levels never accumulating to theraputic levels–because as IBD Specialist phrased it, my body “clears it too quickly”. So, like, maybe it’s clearing the Stelara too quickly? They have me scheduled to take my Stelara injection 8 weeks from the initial infusion, but they could move the Stelara up to every 4 weeks. My question is: what has to happen for them to give me Stelara every 4 weeks?
  3. I’m very determined to wean from the prednisone, and I’m down to 27.5 mg, but I was supposed to drop to 25 mg today and decided against it due to the blood and mucus. Frustrating.
  4. As my prednisone goes down my weight goes up. Isn’t it ironic? Prednisone was like dexatrim for me at higher doses. I lost almost 30 lbs. And now I’ve gained like 25 of it back. I feel much stronger physically and much sharper mentally, so I’m grateful for that and I would WAY rather be chubby than sick. But, it’s still disappointing to have a fat face from prednisone and now a giggly tummy to match. This is definitely something I have some control over and I need to go back to recording my food on myfitnesspal and making better choices. However, it’s harder to make good choices when I’m tired and sore due to prednisone withdrawal–the fact is that I crave sugar. I should probably see an endocrinologist regarding my hypothyroid and adrenal fatigue.
  5. I still want to start TTC soon and I need to know the IBD Specialist’s criteria for when it’s in the realm of possibility. I don’t intend to wait until everything is peachy and perfect, because that likely will never happen. I just want to safely muddle through a pregnancy before having my colon surgically removed–this doesn’t require me to be in full remission, as half-assed remission will suffice.

Ok that’s all for now because BG is peeved that I have not been catering to her this morning and I’m afraid she’s going to complain to HR. Gotta go.

XOXO,

MLACS

 

 

 

Daring To Dream

To recap my last post:

  1. I had the Stelara infusion a week ago and it is working–no blood in my stools and I feel better all-around.
  2. I’ve gained 10 lbs and lost a lot of hair since I started taking 6MP (mercaptopurine) a few weeks ago.

Well, I spoke to the IBD Specialist’s Nurse Practitioner via email (patient portal–so convenient) and she told me to go ahead and quit the 6MP. So I have not taken it the last 2 days and so far, so good–no blood.

Speaking of blood though, I am having my first *real* period in 6 months–it’s very heavy but not painful, just uncomfortable. It’s a good thing though, because it means my body has healed enough that it is willing to consider getting pregnant.

I was cleaning the guest bathroom yesterday and stumbled across some brown paper bags of medication, and I knew they were mine not Mr. MLACS’s, but I had to stop and think of what it was…??

And it stung me like a bee–it’s Crinone (progesterone to support a pregnancy). The Crinone I had bought and paid for back in December after I met my new OBGYN and expressed to him my desire to start TTC (trying to conceive) again. Just before all hell broke loose with my UC-turned-Crohn’s. I shelled out $300+ for this stuff, and I wonder if I will ever get to use it.

Mr. MLACS has been very flirty with me lately, and instead of feeling “blah” about it, I have felt more interested. I got a babysitter and we went on our…2nd?…date, just him and me, since BG was born (28 months ago). We went out to eat at a fun Caribbean-style restaurant–I even had half a glass of wine! I had been thinking about having a glass of wine and I finally felt good enough to try it, and I was tipsy but my liver appears to be worse for the wear. We talked about having a second baby, and we are both ready to try (Mr. MLACS is most def ready to resume our sex life).

We are actually in a much better position to TTC *now* than we were before I became ill. Before I became ill, we had no idea how we were going to get our (burnt to a crisp) dream home repaired. Our marriage was strained from the stress of moving to a place where we knew no one, our house burned down as soon as we signed the contract, and Mr. MLACS’s job was grinding him to the bone, leaving me alone with BG and to do ALL the things by myself. We were miserable. And *then* I got sick and that was the “stick that broke the camel’s back”. Things had to change, there was no trudging on the way we had been. I couldn’t. And at first everything got much, much worse. But when you hit rock bottom, the only place to go is up… So things have been steadily improving. Most importantly, our trials have made our marriage stronger. Well that, and I am not afraid of being unable to parent BG through a pregnancy and another baby, because I managed to do it through my illness. Plus, Mr. MLACS really stepped up and now him and BG are very close–she doesn’t need me as much. If you recall, he was away for work most of the first 18 months of her life, so we were all used to me being the primary caregiver, even when Mr. MLACS was home. But when I got sick, he had to take over and that was actually a good thing, because they have a very strong bond now.

So there are silver linings to my illness–we are stronger as a couple and as a family. We have had time to settle our affairs and we are going to move into our new home soon–we are finally out of the stress and the depression/funk we had in the wake of our house burning down. Mr. MLACS’s job has become a much less toxic place and new management is very “pro-family”, so he is home on time a lot more and a lot less stressed.

We are in a good place to have a baby.

I just have to wean off the prednisone before we can try. I’m going to drop from 32.5mg to 30mg tomorrow. I can’t imagine that my weaning will go completely smoothly–I’ll probably have to hold several weeks at various doses, pending my symptoms. But I am daring to dream that the Stelara will quell my immune system and allow me to wean off the prednisone, given patience and time.

Assuming I can straighten myself out, then we’ll *just* have to work on getting pregnant (ha ha ha ha ha–because it was SO easy–it *only* took 6 IUI’s to conceive BG).

I mean, everybody’s gotta have a dream, right?

XOXO,

MLACS

 

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow…

Y’all know I just spent all kinds of money getting my hair done. And now it is f*ing falling out.

I’m pissed.

My shower walls are covered in hair (as it comes out in clumps when I wash it). My shower drain is clogged. I’m pulling huge hairballs off my brush almost daily. There’s hair all over my clothes, the floors, etc.

I don’t know exactly why this is happening but my best guess would be the 6MP that I started taking a few weeks ago. The same sh*t that facilitated my gaining 10 lbs since I started it. Nasty sh*t. And I’m only on 50mg/day. That’s not even a proper dose for my size. Technically it is not supposed to “work” until you’ve taken it for at least 6 weeks, and it’s not considered very effective as an immunosuppressant at such a low dose. So *technically* since I’m no longer taking Humira and don’t need 6MP to keep antibodies at bay, my IBD Specialist told me I can quit taking it the last time I saw her. But I thought it was helping so she said “If it makes you feel better (as in, mentally better because she doesn’t believe I could have a clinical response sooner than 6 weeks) then you can stay on it until after your Stelara infusion”.

Well, I’ve had the Stelara infusion and it *is* helping. I feel better! I even felt brave enough to drop my prednisone from 35mg to 32.5mg on Monday. So hey, given all the sh*tty side effects and the fact that IBD Specialist thinks the 6MP is *moot* in my treatment, then I should just quit… right?

But I’m scared. I’m afraid that it (6MP) is working to some extent and that quitting will impede my prednisone taper. And I want off the prednisone NOW–I want my *face* back (because “moon face”).

Which brings me back to… Maybe instead of f*cking with all these drugs, I should just have the (permanent ileostomy) surgery already. I know a stoma is forever and it wouldn’t make my life “gravy” but I am pretty f*ing sick of my current set of issues and I might like to trade them in for a new set–you know, for variety.

And also, I would look horrible bald.

XOXO,

MLACS