August 22, 2019

Cancer Survivor Offers Comfort to Others

Caroline Rauchwarger. Photo by Sheila Quintana

Caroline Rauchwarger, 95

Caroline Rauchwarger survived bladder cancer and for the past 17 years has volunteered at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center (where she underwent her treatment) three days a week, greeting and spending time with surgical and obstetrics patients before their procedures. To date, she has logged over 8,000 hours at the hospital.

“I talk to the people and their families, give their paperwork to the nurse. I tell them I’m a cancer survivor and that I’ve gone through surgeries. They’re sitting there worrying and I lift them up a bit,” Rauchwarger said. “I love being with people and being able to sit and commiserate with them. It’s very gratifying.”

Rauchwarger’s husband, Abe, died in 2002 and her son, Marc, passed away in 2007. She had a tough time coping with the losses and learning to live alone, but her family — including three grandchildren — bring joy to her life. She’ll become a great-grandmother for the second time in August. Her new grandson’s name will begin with the initial C in her honor. 

The daughter of a father from Riga, Latvia, and a Parisian mother who immigrated to New York, Rauchwarger was born in Manhattan and was raised there and in the Bronx. “My father was brought up Orthodox, but we weren’t religious,” she said. “We observed the High Holy Days but he had a fruit and vegetable stand and worked on Saturdays. My mother wasn’t religious, either, but kept kosher and lit candles because that’s what my father wanted.”

“I can’t sit on my backside and do nothing. I’d go crazy.”

Rauchwarger, who wasn’t married to Abe when he was drafted to fight in World War II, was devastated to learn he was listed as missing in action in February 1943. Three months later, news came that he was alive and in a POW camp. They were reunited in April 1945, married, and in 1952, they moved to a community established for veterans in Queens, N.Y., where they were active in the synagogue they helped build in Flushing. “I was the treasurer of the sisterhood and my husband was on the board of directors,” she said. They moved to Los Angeles in 1984.

Taking her first trip to Israel, where some cousins live, is at the top of Rauchwarger’s bucket list. She also plans to visit her daughter in Colorado and travel to Italy with her grandson later this year.

Rauchwarger credits her good health and vitality to eating right and staying active. “I can’t sit on my backside and do nothing. I’d go crazy,” she said. A lifelong voracious reader, she frequents the library and enjoys going to movies and watching cooking shows on TV. Her own kitchen specialties range from chopped liver to amaretto cake.

Having once hoped to become a hospital dietician, she finds it fitting to be spending so many of her days at Cedars-Sinai, having been a patient there. “This hospital was good to me,” she said. “I have many friends here.”