Puzzles Enable Me to ‘Armchair Travel’ with Scleroderma

Kim Tocker avatar

by Kim Tocker |

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I complete many jigsaw puzzles as I rest in my recliner. I find puzzles to be an excellent way to pass the time and keep my mind occupied. I do my jigsaw puzzles online, and I enjoy being able to “pack them away” every night, rather than leaving out a real one on our coffee table for our cats to ruin. However, the most satisfying thing about them is that I choose puzzles that depict other places in the world.  

Recently, I finished a puzzle of the Lake Hamilton Pool in Texas — it looks like an amazing place that I would love to visit in person someday. At least, that’s what I tell myself. But in reality, I am not likely to travel to any of the incredible locations that I see when I play my sets of “armchair travel” jigsaw puzzles. I realize that I seem to be vicariously living out my desire to travel through my puzzles. 

The problem with actually traveling anywhere is that many aspects of scleroderma limit what I can accomplish comfortably and easily. Walking long distances is a problem because of my scleroderma feet, so sightseeing is out. I have issues with infection risks and require access to round-the-clock medical care, as well as needing to carry a lot of medications with me.

Travel seems too tricky, and now that I don’t work, courtesy of scleroderma, finances are already stretched, without considering the expense of an overseas excursion.

My armchair travel via my jigsaw puzzles is my “trade-off” for the scleroderma barriers that prevent me from visiting all of the countries that I would like to.

I think that all chronically ill patients become used to “trade-offs” to live a fulfilling life without discomfort and anxiety. I’ve become relatively good at making accommodations for my disease and have developed ways to work around the obstacles that scleroderma presents. Settling for armchair travel is one of these methods.

Although this sounds as if I am feeling a little short-changed, I have discovered some subtle advantages to having to “settle for” situations to accommodate the boundaries that scleroderma has imposed.

Firstly, I wonder if I have begun to view life in terms of what is possible within the boundaries I have, rather than what is not. Seeing the potential in a situation has made me more optimistic and allowed me to develop my creativity. To make the most of what I have, I invent ways to overcome my limitations. 

Another aspect of my “trade-off” approach is that adjusting to limitations is all about adaptation. Organizing my life around the disease entails making changes that suit me and my symptoms. While adaptability is an excellent skill to have, it is also essential to understand that adaptation is about surviving in any given condition — in my case, living with scleroderma.

Lastly, survival, via adaptation, is about believing in a worthwhile future. I strive to survive and somewhere deep inside, I believe that life is worth living and still has many avenues for enjoyment, despite scleroderma.

Isn’t that a marvelous thing?


Note: Scleroderma News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Scleroderma News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to scleroderma.


Chris Nickerson avatar

Chris Nickerson

Another form of armchair travel is Google Maps street view. I recently revisited Monemvasia in Greece only to find it has change from being a wonderful deserted ancient town in the 60s, when I made a long visit as an architectural student, to a commercial tourist trap now.

Kim Tocker avatar

Kim Tocker

Yes! Google street view is awesome, I've tried that as well....but it can certainly be disappointing when things change from the way they used to be.

Sheila Sue Tarter avatar

Sheila Sue Tarter

Great! I use online scrabble games to escape reality and use my brain.

Kim Tocker avatar

Kim Tocker

It's really important to keep the old mind occupied, as well as exercised. Go you, I'll have to give the scrabble a try :)


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