Local identical twin breast cancer victims to host Twins Race For The Cure in hometown


Identical twins LaTonya McKinney and LaSonya Thomas both were diagnosed with breast cancer at different stages in their lives. McKinney (right)is now cancer-free, while Thomas is still in remission.

LaTonya McKinney and LaSonya Thomas are identical twins who were born five minutes apart in December 1969. Ever since, they have been virtually inseparable.

Growing up in a two-bedroom house in Coldwater, Miss., McKinney and Thomas slept in the same bed. From the time they started school until they graduated from Memphis Hillcrest High in 1988, they enrolled in the same classes. When they grew old enough to move out of their parents’ home, they became roommates in their first apartment. Ironically, after meeting the love of their lives, they had a double wedding in 2001.

“We have a special bond,” Thomas, the youngest of the two, told MemphiSport in its salute to Breast Cancer Awareness Month. “It’s the norm for us to be together everyday, all day.”
Oddly, a little more than six years ago, McKinney and Thomas’s close-knit relationship took a shocking, demoralizing twist.
McKinney, who was 36 at the time, had been complaining about recurring chest pains. She sensed that such discomfort might have stemmed from excessive lifting and fatigue in the shipping department at her job.
“A young lady and I was talking and I was complaining of chest pains,” McKinney recalls. “So when the pain continued, she said, ‘Girl, you need to gone and go get checked out.”
McKinney eventually met with her personal physician, who arranged for her to visit with a cancer specialist. Consequently, the specialist suggested that she have a mammogram performed. What transpired afterward is something about which McKinney admittedly left her at a loss for words. Two weeks later, while driving home from work, McKinney fielded a phone call from her doctor, who told her she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
After learning of such news, McKinney was downright bewildered.
“I didn’t have a response at all,” said McKinney, explaining her initial reaction. “I didn’t know how to respond, didn’t feel any anger. It was just some information that was given to me. My mom came over and then asked me if I wanted to cry. But I didn’t feel like crying.”
Conversely, McKinney’s twin responded much differently after learning she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Thomas, in fact, got news that she had been stricken by the disease in August 2009, a little more than three years after McKinney’s diagnosis.
It all started with a tear-jerking dream, she recalls.
“My mom had a dream of someone who had cancer, but she didn’t see a face,” Thomas said. “So she suggested that my younger sister, Stephanie, and I had better go get checked and both of us did.”

Thomas, the youngest of the twins, is undergoing chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer at UT Medical-DeSoto in 2010. Doctors expect her to become cancer-free as early as 2013.

One minute, she’s born five minutes after McKinney. Nearly four decades later, she discovered she had been swindled by the same deadly disease her older twin had acquired three years prior.

“I was the one who had the cancer,” Thomas, who was 39 at the time, said. “I was the face (her mom) didn’t see. Fortunately for me, I was at the cancer center and not driving. I tried to hold it together because I don’t like to see my mom cry. But in the lobby, I was in a ball.”
Nevertheless, McKinney and Thomas ultimately came to grips with having attracted breast cancer. Because of their faith, support from their mother, Juanita Massey (a longtime minister), their father, Rosebur Thomas (the former mayor of Coldwater), let alone the resilence they have exhibited in fighting the disease, they have joined forces to share their life-changing story and offer community service throughout Tate County and neighboring areas.
On Saturday at 10 am, the twins will host their second annual “Twins Race For The Cure Walk/Run” at Coldwater High. The event, which will cover between two-to-three miles, is expected to attract an estimated 200 participants, twice as many that turned out last year. In year’s past, McKinney said their event, which is funded through the Susan G. Komen Foundation, didn’t produce a large turnout, largely because they don’t function as if they are cancer patients.
Last September, for instance, the twins established Mid-South Steerler Nation, an organization that aims to attract local die-hard Pittburgh Steelers fans to participate in various community-related activities. The group, which currently consists of 214 members, occasionally take charter bus trips to watch the Steelers play. Their latest tour was to Nashville for the October 11 Steelers versus the Tennessee Titans game.
As for their ongoing battle with breast cancer, it’s safe to assume these inseparable twins essentially are at the halfway point of conquering a disease that, according to a 2011 report on komencentralva.org, resulted in nearly a quarter of a million new cases among American women last year. That’s because after undergoing six months of chemotherapy in 2006 and an additional five years of medical treatment, doctors declared McKinney cancer-free in January 2011.

Despite their battles with breast cancer, among McKinney and Thomas’ recent projects is establishing Mid-South Steeler Nation, an organization comprised of more than 200 Pittsburgh Steeler fans.

Of course, Thomas, just like at birth, isn’t too far behind her sister.
She has undergone chemotherapy for the past three years and is currently in remission. Like McKinney, doctors anticipate she will make a full recovery as early as 2013. Which, of course, is among the reasons they don’t function like cancer patients. In two years, both will be free of breast cancer. However, their mission to help fight the disease will continue.
“We want to let people know who we are and to let them know we went through other people’s tragedy,”  McKinney said. “When people come up to me, I tell them I am a cancer survivor. And they say, ‘I’m sorry.’ They look at it as a tragedy. But I’m a survivor.”
Just like at birth, her twin sister isn’t too far behind.
Andre Johnson is a regular contributor for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.


  1. I am a twin my sister is 3 min older and she has been cancer free for 8 yrs and me her twin sister just found out 3 days ago I have breast cancer she had a lumpectomy and I have to have a mascetomy and I also have it in the lymph nodes.

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