St. Jude treats, inspires Wichita woman to start non-profit

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The first image that often comes to mind when someone talks about St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is an image of children with cancer.

Something many may not know is that the hospital offers treatment for a few exceptions.

In the case of Lori Dechant, St. Jude didn’t cure her cancer.

That’s because Dechant never had cancer at all. Instead, she had a rare tumor masked by her scoliosis.

St. Jude was still there to help.

“I did not have cancer,” Dechant told KSN. “We went to my doctor and my doctor was like, ‘well, let’s just watch that for a little while,’ and my mom was like, ‘yeah, no. I don’t think we should watch that,’ so we went and got a second opinion.”

That was only the beginning.

“We went to a different doctor and my doctor said, ‘I think there’s something wrong with your spinal cord,’ she explained.

What was wrong was that tumor that no one in Kansas would touch.

“The doctors told me nobody in Kansas would operate on my tumor because it was a very rare tumor,” she said. “It’s called a Ganglioglioma.”

That’s when Dechant and her family headed to Memphis where, at just 16, she had surgery at Lebonheur Hospital before becoming an outpatient at St. Jude for the next 12 years.

“St. Jude is just such a happy place,” she said. “Like, walking in, seeing all the murals on the walls, seeing all the kids being pushed around in wagons, it’s just such a happy place. The nurses are the nicest people. The doctors are incredible.”

While the tumor was benign, the surgery left Dechant paralyzed from the waist down.

Now, a graduate of Wichita State and a speech language pathologist for USD 259, Dechant  told KSN the St. Jude organization has inspired her to pay it forward.

“We wanted to ensure that other students in the city who have physical disabilities could go on and go to college and achieve their goals of getting jobs in the future too,” she said.

The Lori Dechant Foundation was created to do just that.

So far, the foundation has awarded three scholarships, with plans to grow in the future.

Much of that success, Dechant credits to the life-saving treatment at St. Jude.

“You know that you are getting the best care there is,” she said.