Music graduate Ryan Breen overcomes rare disease and finds love in the process

Breen’s support system helped him persevere through his illness to graduation

After a seven-year journey that included unexpected health issues, overcoming obstacles and even celebrating love on campus, music student and dedicated percussionist Ryan Breen is graduating.

His convocation marks the end of an incredible and challenging experience at Western.

Breen’s time at Western, in the Don Wright Faculty of Music, began like many others – full of promise and excitement. “I started my undergrad in 2017 and loved it,” he said.

However, the summer after his first year he was diagnosed with a disease called aplastic anemia, a rare autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks the bone marrow.

The diagnosis was life-altering. He had bruising, extreme fatigue and other symptoms that led him to see a doctor. The subsequent blood test results were alarming, leading to immediate hospitalization.

“I was confused and wasn’t sure what was happening to my body,” he said.

Breen’s treatment regimen was intense and meant he had to put his music degree on pause. He was in the hospital twice a week for blood transfusions and had to undergo various treatments.

The first year of treatment stretched into two, and then three, each time with the hope that the next course would be successful, and he’d be able to return to his studies at Western.

Read full article (via Western News, June 9, 2024) Music graduate overcomes rare disease and finds love in the process

Breen is one of more than 8,560 Western students graduating this spring. He joins more than 362,000 alumni in almost 160 countries around the world. Read more convocation coverage.

Watch Don Wright Faculty of Music's Convocation ceremony on June 21, 2024 at 3pm via live stream.