Feb 5, 2003
Nick Marino, Times-Union staff writer
The Florida Times-Union
On Christmas Day 1995, Vashron Chapple weighed 280 pounds.
"The next eight months, I lost 80 pounds," Chapple said.
"From that point forward," he said, "I decided I wanted to get into health education."
So he did. And he began to believe that he had taken control of his own health.
Then his headaches started. "I was thinking aneurysm. It was that bad," he said.
As it turned out, he had multiple sclerosis.
"At first I was a little upset," he said. "I did all the right things. I always say behavior plays a role in your health, and I had a disease that my behavior played no part in."
Chapple emerged from a two-week "mourning period" with a new commitment to health education.
"I believe that positive emotions create positive reactions in your body," he said. "I never looked back."
Chapple, 28, took an internship at the North Florida chapter of the MS Society, where he designed intervention strategies for non- compliant MS patients, people who weren't taking their medication.
And today he's a senior health educator at the Baker County Health Department. He focuses on reproductive health, promoting abstinence. He talks to parents about their children, and visits churches and schools to speak with young people directly.
He tells kids: "I got something that behavior had nothing to do with. I didn't have a choice -- you have a choice."
Eventually, Chapple's MS could lead to blindness. He won't have a choice about that, either. But he'll have a choice about how to react. And if he ever has to make that choice, he'll be happy just to be alive.
"If I wake up blind," he said, "[at least] I woke up."
The first child in his family to attend college, Chapple hopes one day to get a Ph.D. He's trying to push his life forward despite MS.
"It hasn't slowed me down yet. I don't plan on letting it slow me down," he said.
If anything, he said, MS has sped him up. He's got traveling to do, classes to teach, time to spend with his wife. He's got other life-affirming accomplishments to check off life's big list: bungee jumping, skydiving and so on.
"I like having fun, man," Chapple said. "Life is fun."
Staff writer Nick Marino can be reached at (904) 359-4367
© 2003 The Florida Times-Union