By Dani M. Stone
Nancy Rajala considers the invitation from her granddaughter, Cassandra Sturos, to try out for the Biggest Loser competition to be nothing short of “divine intervention.” At 63, Nancy should be enjoying her retirement and spending time with her 55 grandchildren. Yes, 55. But instead, at 217 pounds, she has high blood pressure and feels depressed because she’s not the lively energetic person she used to be. Nancy and Cassandra are the only grandparent/grandchild team on this season of Biggest Loser 13.
To say Nancy is tough is an understatement. Raised in Farmington, Michigan with three siblings, Nancy was devastated by the loss of her father at just 13-years old. When she turned 14, her mother gave her a bus ticket, $70, and sent her off to get married. The marriage lasted only two years and at 17, she married her second husband and went on to have 13 children. The family had a successful drywall business and for the first time in a long time, Nancy was happy. Tragedy struck again when her husband developed heart failure and lung cancer. She was a widow at age 52.
Nancy pinpoints the death of her husband as the turning point in her health. Trying to run the family business alone and take care of 13 children took its toll. She no longer cared about what she ate and certainly didn’t make exercise a priority. Well-intentioned family members and friends brought food, and Nancy said for a while she felt like everywhere she turned there was something new to eat. She quickly gained 85 pounds.
Nancy wants to be happy and active again. She’s very involved in her grandchildren’s sports activities and simply wants to be able to climb the bleachers without becoming winded or need assistance. Long-term goals include wearing pretty summer clothes in smaller sizes and dancing.