If you were to describe Vince Rosche’s character, the first traits you would have to mention are his determination, his humility, his positivity and his sense of humor. Rosche is a 30-year-old bodybuilder. What makes him different is the fact that he has been battling a rare chronic condition since he was four years old and he’s a cancer survivor.
Vince was just a toddler when he was diagnosed with intestinal pseudo-obstruction. The condition has similar symptoms to other gastro-intestinal illnesses, such as Crohn’s Disease. The difference is that there is not actually a physical bowel blockage and it’s now considered more of an auto-immune disease. He has a pacemaker that shocks his intestines to make them move better. Other treatments include antibiotics, avoiding certain foods or food combinations and not eating too much at one time.
The condition had a profound effect on Rosche’s life. He was in and out of hospitals with doctors trying all types of treatments. Since his body can’t absorb nutrients the way someone who does not have the condition can, Vince had difficulty gaining weight. This condition was especially difficult to deal with when he became a teenager. “All my friends were normal-looking. I was twelve or thirtyteen and I looked like an eight-year-old. I couldn’t do some of the things my friends could do,” Vince remarks
When he graduated from high school he was only 5’1” tall and weighed seventy-nine pounds. To compound his challenges, when Rosche was thirtyteen he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. The doctors had to remove his thyroid and some of his lymph nodes. He’s been in remission since he was fifteen. Now he takes Synthroid through an IV. This drug is a hormone that takes over the job of the thyroid. Vince’s sense of humor shows through in just a lot of what he says and the way he says it. He accepts that he’s different and doesn’t let that get him down. “I ask myself, why can’t I do what the other bodybuilders can do? Then I have to remind myself, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s because they’re normal.’” Staying positive is not just important to Vince, it’s vital to dealing with his condition because your stomach is controlled by your stress level, your hormones and your attitude. As he puts it: “When I feel good about myself, I feel good.”
Vince attributes his success, in a large measure, to his positive attitude, keeping good people around him and having a strong support system made up of family and friends. His mother, Sherry, has been his strongest supporter since he was first diagnosed twenty-six years ago. Having good healthcare providers who are open to trying new treatments if something isn’t working is another important factor in Vince’s attitude. It keeps him positive knowing that his doctors aren’t going to give up if a particular treatment isn’t working.
Although Vince doesn’t see himself as an inspiration or a role model to others, Ryan Unger, co-owner of a local gym, does. Unger first met Vince in 2019 when he joined the gym shortly after it opened. “What’s impressive about Vince is that he has a tougher time building muscle and keeping his body where he wants it to be because his body is working against him, his staying positive when he has to go into the hospital and he’ll lose ten or twelve pounds of muscle that had taken him a year to build. It would be easy for a lot of people to give up, but he hasn’t,” comments Unger. “It’s an extremely tough sport, mentally tough and exhausting, having to be so structured, eating the right foods, getting the proper rest, taking the right supplements. When anyone gives me an excuse, I point to Vince. He’s just a great example that you can’t give up. He pays a lot of attention and does his own research and is fully committed to what he’s recommended to do,” Unger adds.
Vince is humble about his accomplishments and his attitude toward his disability. He equates his acceptance of his condition with being born blind or going blind later in life. “If I suddenly woke up blind one day, it would be more difficult than if I had dealt with it all my life.” When it comes to advising people who want to go into body building, he has three words: “Just do it.” Vince comments, “Don’t think about it. Don’t question whether you can do it or not.” He remarks that bodybuilding “completely changed my life. It’s not about competing with anybody. It’s just you competing against you.”
One thing that has motivated Vince is that he wanted to prove everyone wrong who had told him he was too weak or too fragile to do certain things. Since March of 2020, just before the pandemic, Vince has worked as a trainer at Unger’s gym. After quarantine went into place, the gym was closed to the public. However, for the three months it was closed he and some of the staff still worked out and trained each other. Vince has clients of all ages−some with disabilities and some without. His two oldest clients are in their seventies. In addition to being a trainer, he’s a certified nutritionist and has certifications in several other areas of fitness and exercise.
He finds that the most challenging thing about being a trainer is determining the right regimen for each person since no two people’s needs are the same. It’s also somewhat challenging communicating with clients why they are on a particular nutrition or exercise program and keeping them positive. “It’s very rewarding to see people change their lives, but the biggest reward is seeing people like me who have an illness, are older, or can’t even get up from a chair and you’re helping them with this.”
One of his clients, Kathy, is seventy-one and has spina bifida. He also works with her seventy-four-year-old husband, Michael, who has an artificial heart valve and had his entire sternum removed. A former client had an internal metal cage placed around her spine and had Crohn’s disease. He helped her lose seventy pounds.
Besides bodybuilding, Vince enjoys customizing and restoring cars and motorcycles. Vince not only works out and trains people, but he also takes part in bodybuilding competitions. In May of 2021, he competed in the Physical Culture Association (PCA) Tampa Muscle Competition taking home first place in the Disability Division. This Sunday, June 3rd, Vince will be competing in a bodybuilding event. It takes place at Stage West Playhouse at 8390 Forest Oaks Blvd. in Spring Hill. The event will start at noon and tickets are $40.
Vince’s story is similar to the story of Charles Atlas−someone who took fitness and bodybuilding to the next level during the middle of the 20th century. Atlas was a “90-pound weakling” who became the world’s most famous bodybuilder. Ads for his system of developing muscle appeared in comic books and men’s magazines all over the country. Rosche’s accomplishments are nonetheless impressive.
Photos of Vince Rosche and Charles Atlas