The days that follow giving birth—to twins, no less, in the case of Jenna Hinman—should be joyful ones. Instead, the military wife and mom from Fort Drum, NY, was handed almost unimaginable news following her March 3 emergency C-section: a diagnosis of stage 3 choriocarcinoma, an incredibly rare cancer tied to pregnancy. The 26-year-old has since been put in a medically induced coma, reports ABC News, with tumors having spread to her lungs. As Dr. David Landsberg of Crouse Hospital explains, "Placental tissue grows at a very rapid rate to support the fetus, which explains why the cancer is so aggressively metastatic. It grows into the uterus and once it gets out, it's looking for somewhere else to grow."
At most, seven pregnancies out of every 100,000 are thought to be affected by choriocarcinoma; making Hinman's situation all the more rare: Doctors say her condition would be "100% fatal" without the use of ECMO, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, which the Post-Standard calls an "unprecedented and unorthodox" treatment plan. The technology employs a pump that circulates blood through an artificial lung and then back into the body. Says Landsberg, "The ECMO is keeping her alive for the chemo to do its job ... but the danger to the patient is just from being on ECMO." Hinman's girls, who were born at 30 weeks and named Kinleigh Ann Hinman (2 pounds, 9 ounces) and Azlynn Mary Hinman (3 pounds, 6 ounces), are doing well. A GoFundMe page has raised just over $100,000 for the family; the ECMO treatment costs roughly $100,000 per day. (Read more Jenna Hinman stories.)