Jenna Hinman, a Syracuse, N.Y., mother who learned she had a rare placental cancer just after delivering twin girls last month, died Monday of complications of pneumonia, according to the hospital that treated her.
"We are heartbroken and our hearts go out to her family," Crouse Hospital spokesman Bob Allen told ABCNews.com today. "She touched so many people from around the country."
Hinman, 26, gave birth March 3 to Kinleigh Ann Hinman and Azlynn Mary Hinman by emergency C-section only to have doctors immediately discover she was battling stage 3 choriocarcinoma. The twins, who were delivered premature at 30 weeks (2 pounds, 9 ounces, and 3 pounds, 6 ounces, respectively), remained in the neonatal intensive care unit for six weeks, but today are thriving, according to her Facebook support page, Prayers for Jenna
"Jenna did not lose her battle with cancer," her friends wrote on that page. "She beat the cancer in a way almost no one ever does. The type of cancer she had almost always claims the life of the child, not the parent. Jenna sacrificed herself to save her two children. She defeated the cancer before it ever hurt the two most beloved people to her in the world. She fulfilled her role as a mother in a way almost no one else could have. Her body took the blow and saved her children."
Since being discharged from the hospital's Walter R.G. Baker Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, the twins have been living with their maternal grandparents while their father serves his military duty.
Choriocarcinoma is a malignant form of gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD), tumors that involve abnormal growth of cells inside a woman's uterus. This particular kind affects only about 2 to 7 of every 100,000 pregnancies in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society.
Choriocarcinoma is much more likely than other kinds of GTD to grow quickly and spread to organs away from the uterus. About one-quarter of women who develop this disease miscarry.
Hinman had been fighting for her life in a medically induced coma for the past two months as the rare cancer filled her lungs with tumors.
Dr. David Landsberg, chief of medicine for Crouse Hospital in Syracuse, told ABCNews.com in March that Hinman's cancer was serious but "curable."
Her husband, U.S. Army Sgt. Brandon Hinman, told ABCNews.com at the time, "We're hanging in there," as his wife endured chemotherapy and ECMO, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation therapy. Hinman is stationed at Fort Drum in Watertown, N.Y.
"She's probably the most kind-hearted person I ever met," Hinman said of his wife. "She would go out of her way for anyone, give them the shirt off her back."
The couple had difficulty getting pregnant because of his multiple deployments to Europe and Afghanistan. "We never had a solid amount of time together," he said.
But just before another deployment, they got the good news. "I got to stay back," he said. "It was amazing."
Just last weekend, Syracuse photographer Sarah Born did a photo shoot of the Hinman twins with their father and grandparents. Jenna Hinman was unable to attend, but helped Born select the theme for the shoot, choosing a pink backdrop for one, as it was her favorite color.
Another photo incorporated peach, the color for choriocarcinoma, and a third was against the U.S. flag, a nod to the family's patriotism.
Updates on Jenna Hinman's progress had been positive, but the family posted an urgent update to their Facebook page Sunday to say that her condition was deteriorating.
Friends who are running the page called for an emergency prayer request.
"Her vital signs have become unstable over the past 12 hours and her ventilator has been turned all the way up," they wrote. "There is speculation of infection and/or internal bleeding," according to the update posted at 10:53 a.m. Sunday.
They posted that night that she had developed pneumonia.
"Jenna is now on powerful medication to fight this infection and we will keep you updated as often as possible," the update stated. "Please continue to pray that Jenna's lungs will clear and heal quickly. Jenna's condition tonight is fragile and critical - she has fought valiantly thus far, and we truly believe she has a lot of fight left in her still."
The Syracuse Post-Standard, in an editorial today, wrote, "Thousands upon thousands" of people around the country rallied for the Hinmans.
"They sent messages of hope and inspiration," according to the piece. "They donated money. Many cried at Monday's news that Jenna had died. We didn't know her, but her story touched the essential fiber that makes us human, makes us care for those beset by troubles we can't imagine. Here, in the happiest moment of a family's life together, the birth of children, comes the saddest news of all."
The family has a GoFundMe. fund set up to raise money for their expenses associated with the ordeal.