For Teresa Ferreiro, reentering the workforce after surviving cancer felt overwhelming. So Ferreiro, of A Coruña, Spain, founded the online platform Soul Reconnect to help other breast cancer patients and survivors navigate the frightening, often isolating, journey.
“If you don’t know how to go back to work, talk to others, or face your fears, then things can get very difficult,” said Ferreiro, who was diagnosed with breast cancer 12 years ago.
Her return to the workforce after cancer included getting certified as an executive professional coach and pursuing a doctorate in communications. Those skills form the foundation for Soul Reconnect, which provides health care coaching and other tools to help patients navigate medical appointments, improve nutrition and exercise, and return to work.
The business, which uses methods informed by scientific research and patient feedback, also offers webinars and retreats to foster personal growth. Most importantly, Ferreiro says, Soul Reconnect empowers women through their recovery. “The patient is no longer just a passive person who waits for a treatment, or others, to make decisions,” Ferreiro said. “Now, the patient is in the center, and she is the one who runs her life.”
She credits the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE), a U.S. State Department program that empowers women to start and scale businesses, with helping her develop a business plan that incorporates her professional and personal experience, and launch Soul Reconnect.
AWE has trained more than 16,000 women worldwide since it launched in 2019. Ferreiro was accepted into AWE in 2021 as the COVID-19 pandemic forced more companies to conduct business online. AWE’s online community of women entrepreneurs supported Ferreiro as she launched her business during the tumultuous economic time.
“What I didn’t know was that, for example, I would be constantly pivoting — starting and stopping three times due to COVID,” she said. “So, it was more like being part of a community where we all are in the same place; otherwise, you feel very alone.”
She also says AWE helped her realize the possibilities for expanding Soul Reconnect. She hopes to partner with companies seeking to offer wellness programs to employees, and add and translate content to reach patients outside Spain, and with other illnesses.
“The program helped me to be brave, and think, ‘OK, there’s nothing to lose,'” Ferreiro said. “‘This is my idea, and it is going to work!’”
A version of this article was previously published by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.