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Community rallies to support Jenna Hinman, Fort Drum wife battling rare pregnancy cancer

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WATERTOWN — Jenna Hinman was the first person that Emily L.M. McMillin met when she moved from Seattle, Wash., to Fort Drum almost 18 months ago.

Both the wives of soldiers stationed here, they became fast friends.

Mrs. McMillin — whose husband, Staff Sgt. Michael T. McMillin, is serving in Afghanistan — became a part of the Hinman family and relied on their support while she was living so far away from home.

On Sunday, Mrs. McMillin returned the support of her friend and her family by organizing a spaghetti dinner at the Black River Valley Club to raise money for the young mother as she suffers from choriocarcinoma, a rare form of cancer.

“They adopted me and took me in,” she said about how Mrs. Hinman, 26, and husband, Sgt. Brandon Hinman, 30, made her feel welcome.

Mrs. McMillin, her colleague Trevor C. Garlock and friend Caitlin A. Miracle know that medical and other bills are mounting for the Hinman family.

The past two months have been difficult as they watched their friend continue treatment at Crouse Hospital, Syracuse. To fight off the cancer, Mrs. Hinman has been receiving an intensive round of chemotherapy.

It should be a happy time for the young couple.

In January, the couple found out that Mrs. Hinman was expecting a baby. Later, they learned they were having twin girls.

But soon, everything went completely wrong.

After Mrs. Hinman suffered complications, Kinleigh Anne and Azlynn Mary were born prematurely at just 30 weeks on March 3. They ended up in the neonatal intensive care unit at Samaritan Medical Center, where Mrs. Hinman works as a recreational therapist. Then, Mrs. Hinman’s oxygen levels inexplicably began to drop and she immediately had to be put on oxygen.

The next day, she was diagnosed with stage 3 choriocarcinoma. A computed tomography scan revealed a group of tumors in her uterus. By the time she arrived at Crouse Hospital on March 6, her tumors had doubled in size and the cancer had spread to her lungs, her husband said.

Mrs. Hinman’s condition deteriorated rapidly, and she was put on an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine to oxygenate her blood before returning it to her body.

Within a couple of days, her story developed an online following on Facebook with more than 20,000 people reading about it on the “Prayers for Jenna” page. It now has more than 254,000 likes. And family members in the Auburn area and friends both here and in Cayuga County have come to Sgt. Hinman’s aid.

Sunday’s fundraiser was put on by the Foundation for Community Betterment, a network of individuals who believe a simple gesture that touches just one life can positively affect an entire community. Sam’s Club donated much of the food and provided 30 volunteers.

Proceeds will go toward food, clothing and diapers for the twins. Sgt. Hinman and the girls are living with Mrs. Hinman’s parents, Kim and Jeff Blaisdell, in Port Byron while she remains in the hospital.

On Thursday, Mrs. McMillin learned that Azlynn has grown to 6 pounds, 12 ounces, while Kinleigh now weighs 5 pounds, 13 ounces.

The Army has allowed Sgt. Hinman to be on leave during the ordeal, Mrs. McMillin said. He splits his time between being at the hospital during the day and taking care of the girls at night.

“He’s been hanging in there,” she said.

Until this weekend, the family had been encouraged about Mrs. Hinman’s prognosis. On Saturday night, however, she took a turn for the worse. Her vital signs dropped and the ventilator has been turned up all the way while physicians believed she may have developed an infection or internal bleeding, Mrs. McMillin said.

According to the Facebook page, tests on Sunday confirmed Mrs. Hinman has pneumonia.

With the sudden developments, family members were unable to attend the benefit since they were at the hospital with Mrs. Hinman.

As they have during the entire illness, her friends and family members are calling for prayers for her. They continue to believe in the power of prayer and remain optimistic.

Last summer, Mrs. Miracle met Mrs. Hinman during a get-together for “The Bachelor” television reality show at Mrs. McMillin’s house. She described their friend as “easygoing, very giving, outspoken and fun to be around.”

“It’s so sad to see this happen to such great people,” Mrs. Miracle said. Her husband, Staff Sgt. Justin W. Miracle, also attended the benefit.

Tammy L. and Mark S. Hall were among about 200 others who attended the fundraiser. They drove up from Syracuse after hearing about it on the crowdfunding website GoFundMe. Mrs. Hall, who grew up in Auburn, knows many of Mrs. Hinman’s friends, she said.

“It’s a good cause,” she said.

For more information, visit the Facebook page at http://wdt.me/PrayersforJenna, or the online fundraiser at http://wdt.me/Hinmanfund and www.communitybetterment.org.

CANCER FACTS
What you need to know about the rare cancer Jenna Hinman is facing, according to the American Cancer Society.
nChoriocarcinoma affects two to seven of every 100,000 pregnancies in the nation. The gestational trophoblastic tumors account for less than 1 percent of female reproductive system cancers.
• The tumors “involve abnormal growth cells inside a woman’s uterus” that “start in cells that would normally develop into the placenta during pregnancy.”
• The cancer quickly spreads to organs away from the uterus.
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