Posted on June. 23. 2022
BY ANI MKRTCHYAN
I stared at the yellow wedge in my hand, its juices leaking onto my fingers.
We, as humans, are notorious for unusual methods to cure ourselves of whatever we wish to be cured of. Superstitions that ginger tea will relieve us of a headache, or that boiled fennel will lessen menstrual cramps are odd phenomena passed down through generations that seem to work wonders for those who use them.
Growing up with a traditional Armenian family, I was no stranger to these peculiar remedies. I had an abnormal infection on my thumb which doctors claimed to be a wart. It was very unpleasant looking, and painful. Every morning before school, I would wrap the lump with a Band-Aid, hiding it from friends’ and teachers’ eyes. Countless doctors failed to appropriately diagnose and heal my flaw, and I was close to losing hope it would ever disappear. Every trip to the doctor, with every white coated figure that made their way into the room, I would hope that it would be the day my hand finally regained its normality. Every walk back to the car, my head would hang as my parents rubbed my back after another disappointment.
With every white coated figure that made their way into the room, the imminent feeling of pain would instantly wash over me. I would hold my breath and swallow back tears, as the pain slowly overtook my body. My hand numb as the doctor removed the needle from my left thumb. I would anxiously sit, waiting for what seemed like an eternity, for yet another physician to set up their tools and begin operating on my thumb in a procedure called cryosurgery.
By this time, I knew the procedure by heart: the doctor would use liquid nitrogen to freeze the abnormality on my skin and, according to him, it would work against my infection, drying it completely off. Each time I had to remind myself that I had been through this process multiple times, but with every time that I made my way into the doctor’s office, the feeling that this wart would be healed seemed to grow more and more distant.
And yet, one evening as I was talking to my grandmother, she proposed the strangest possible answer to the bulging lump which haunted my thumb. Due to her traditional upbringing in Soviet Armenia, she has various ways of healing ailments with a variety of foods and herbs.
My grandmother suggested that I cut a potato in half, rub it over the lump, and then bury the potato in my backyard garden, the idea being that when the potato dried, my wart would follow suit and fall off.
I refused to believe that my grandmother’s suggestion was going to work. “It’s foolish and a waste of time” is what I told my mother. But I was desperate and I needed anything that could rid me of the wart.
When I completed all the steps, I thought to myself, could life really be as simple as using a potato to heal an infection? After this procedure I stopped going to my appointments and I held on to the hope that the potato buried in my backyard will magically heal my thumb. Just as my grandmother predicted, two weeks after I buried the potato, my infection ceased to exist.
Thinking back, I realized that it wasn’t just the potato that healed the wart, but rather my trust in the process and the faith that I had both in my grandmother’s words and her advice. I understood that life’s obstacles will not always require complex resolutions.
My doctors, with their abundance of medical expertise, would never have thought an Armenian superstition revolving about the burial of half a potato would cure the mysterious growth on my thumb. My grandmother’s suggestion both spared me more pain and sparked the belief that questioning the odder things in life could be detrimental to my growth, and that sometimes, with a sprinkle of faith, it is better to overcome stereotypical judgement.
If I had lost hope, or scoffed at my grandmother’s words, who knows how long I would have been stuck with the infection.
Believing in myself and the potato’s healing capabilities is what allowed me to begin having faith in even the smallest things, serving as a constant reminder of persisting through difficulty through whatever means possible.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ani Mkrtchyan was born in Yerevan, Armenia in 2005. In 2018, she moved to the U.S due to her father’s diplomatic term in Washington D.C. She completed her high school studies at an early age with a GPA of 4.6 and was admitted to the University of Maryland’s business school to study International Business. In her spare time, she loves to dance, draw, listen to music, and read. She is very passionate about her culture and loves being involved in the Armenian community. As part of her extracurricular activities she is or has been engaged in community activism as a Co-founder of the club “Montgomery County Period” to advocate for menstrual equity; Leader of the Armenian Homenetmen Scouts chapter in D.C.; Manager and choreographer of Dance club “BCC Moves” at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School; Volunteer at St. Mary’s Apostolic Armenian Church to teach Armenian to children at Sunday School; Member of Armenian Youth Federation (AYF); Advisor of Armenian Church Youth Organization of America to aid in organizing events, lectures, fundraisers, and other activities in church. She is a recipient of several awards including Harvard University Foreign Policy Initiative hackathon winner; CHIPS personal essay writing winner; Certificate of Meritorious Service in recognition of exemplary service to my community; Honor Roll throughout middle and high school; Scholarship recipient of the Women’s Club of Chevy Chase; Certificate of Merit for academic excellence. She is fluent in English and Armenian; Proficient in Russian and French.