Herald Journal - Enterprise Dispatch - Delano Herald Journal
The picture that changed her life

May 4, 2009

Teresa Nowak, mother of four, receives gastric bypass surgery and is now the ‘face of weight loss’ for Fairview Southdale

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

SILVER LAKE, MN - Teresa Nowak calls it the picture that changed her life, but when it comes to health and obesity, it most likely was the picture that saved her life.

Nowak is a resident of Silver Lake, the wife of Ervin Nowak and the mother of four, all of whom attend school in Dassel-Cokato.

After she saw the picture (right), Nowak decided, at 276 pounds, she needed to do something about her weight, other than another diet.

Because of her weight, Nowak had been suffering from depression and numerous health issues including sleep apnea, migraines, and arthritis in her knees. She was even rejected from getting life insurance.

In April of 2006, she began the six-month process required for gastric bypass surgery through Fairview Southdale in Edina.

Gastric bypass surgery involves the removal of part of the stomach and the shortening of large intestine, according to Nowak.

Nowak was expected to lose 10 pounds before she could be approved, and she lost 25 pounds.

Also, during this pre-surgery preparation, she was taught what and how to eat, such as chewing at least 40 times before swallowing.

It’s also recommended to take at least 20 to 30 minutes to eat a small meal, and not drink anything for 30 minutes before or after a meal, Nowak explained.

She had surgery Jan. 11, 2007.

Though at first, Nowak had a difficult time keeping even small amounts of food down, eating consciously and exercising regularly became “second nature” to her.

“It’s a diet you can’t get off of,” she said.

She recovered and was back to work within a month. Recovery time depends on the individual, she said.

Sometimes, a person who has gastric bypass surgery may be back to work in just two weeks, Nowak said.

It took about six to nine months for Nowak to lose the weight.

“It goes fast,” she said.

Now, Nowak weighs 145 pounds and she would do it all over again. “Every day, if I had to,” she said.

There was a time prior to the surgery when Nowak felt horrible about herself, and was embarrassed by the way she looked.

Now, she is happy and healthy and having a “wonderful life,” Nowak said.

Just a few weeks ago, Nowak ran a 5k run in 36.27 minutes for the Get Your Rear in Gear race for colon cancer.

Next, she will participate in Relay for Life.

“Now, I have a new picture that shows just what a person can do with the right mindset and plenty of support from doctors, staff, friends, and family,” Nowak said.

Aside from being healthy, Nowak is able to play with her kids more, be more active, and has more confidence, she said.

She continues going to two support groups and has been asked by Fairview Southdale to be the face of weight loss for it their program.

Now, her picture can be seen on metro buses, billboards, and newspaper ads.

Her story can also be found on http://southdale.fairview.org/patient_stories/.

“I am so thankful for the life I have now. The journey has been challenging, but so very rewarding,” Nowak said.


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