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S. Claymon; Advocate for Breast Cancer Research


Susan Claymon, nationally known advocate for breast cancer research who helped write and win passage of California's Breast Cancer Act to provide funding for research, has died of the disease. She was 61.

Claymon, who survived 14 years past her diagnosis, died Jan. 18 at her home in the San Francisco area.

A graphic artist and marketing executive, Claymon led "Art.Rage.Us," an exhibition of art and writing by breast cancer survivors shown last year at the downtown Los Angeles Central Library.

Two years ago, Claymon also played a primary role in the HBO documentary about breast cancer survivors titled "Rachel's Daughters."

In 1993, Claymon helped draft and pass the state law establishing the California Breast Cancer Research Program, funded by a 2-cent cigarette tax. She went on to head the program's advisory council and served as a peer reviewer for the national Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program, which was modeled on California's research and screening effort.

To raise more funds, she led a campaign that added breast cancer to the state Department of Health Services program to grant income tax deductions for donations.

Claymon was also the national breast cancer advocacy coordinator for Health Care Without Harm, which promotes international attention to toxic substances and other environmental factors that may cause cancer.

"We are seeing breast cancer as not only a medical but also a political issue," Claymon testified in 1991 before the President's Cancer Panel convened at the University of Texas. "Patient advocates are learning to harness this energy, to challenge the old assumptions, to demand that our whole society face this neglected epidemic. There must be official recognition of breast cancer as a national public health emergency, to increase public awareness of the epidemic and open the doors for funding from the public and private sector."

A year earlier, Claymon had co-founded San Francisco's Breast Cancer Action advocacy organization. She was president of its board and wrote extensively for its newsletter.

"Susan was truly a mother of the breast cancer movement," said Michele Rakoff of the Long Beach Memorial Breast Center at the Long Beach Memorial Medical Center.

A Chicago native, Claymon earned a fine arts degree at the University of Iowa. She was living in Cincinnati when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1986, and had moved to San Francisco in 1989 when doctors found cancerous tumors in her bones.

Divorced, Claymon is survived by a daughter, Deborah; a son, Michael, and two grandsons.

A memorial service is scheduled at noon Sunday at the Palace of Fine Arts Theater in San Francisco.

The family has asked that memorial donations be made to either Breast Cancer Action of San Francisco, the Breast Cancer Fund of San Francisco or the Wyoming Youth Services Bureau in Cincinnati.

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