The timetable for his return is unclear, but the prognosis is optimistic. Though sobered by and concerned about the news, the Twins expressed confidence in the ability of their front office's long-time leader to beat the disease and get back to running the team.
"I don't doubt he'll get this knocked out," assistant general manager Rob Antony said. "He's a tough bird, as he would say."
The Twins released a statement on Monday from Ryan, who thanked his doctors, friends and colleagues for their work and support.
"It's my intention to see you back at the ballpark as soon as possible," Ryan said.
During his recent annual physical exam, the 60-year-old Ryan asked team physician Dr. Vijay Eyunni to examine a hard lump on his neck about an inch in diameter that had appeared a few weeks earlier. Further tests revealed squamous cell carcinoma.
The squamous cells are in several parts of the body, but Eyunni said the source and cause of the cancer was undetermined. All that was known, he said, was that it was in his lymph node but had not spread to anywhere else.
"The good news is we caught it early," Eyuinni said, adding: "As you know, both mentally and physically, he's very strong. So with treatment and radiation, it's going to help him a lot. He'll recover better than someone who is not healthy."
Ryan was at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and expected to have surgery on Tuesday. Radiation treatment will likely follow. But once removed, Eyunni said, this type of cancer does not come back.
"It should be completely done. It does not regenerate anymore," Eyunni said.
Despite the positive outlook for a full recovery, this close-knit organization felt a collective anxiety and letdown upon learning of Ryan's condition.
"My family is praying for Terry Ryan and his family. Cancer is a terrible thing and we are hoping for a fast recovery," reliever Brian Duensing said on Twitter.
"Cancer news hit close to home today. Sickened to hear about one of the men I respect most. My prayers are with you Terry," closer Glen Perkins tweeted.
Manager Ron Gardenhire, in an e-mail, said he's had a "rough few days" in regard to Ryan's cancer.
"You won't find a better boss or a better friend," Gardenhire said.
Ryan's primary concern, his colleagues said, was with his wife and adult children and how they would take the news.
"But beyond that, he took it really well," Eyunni said. "He says, 'Doc, let's move on. I want to get this done.'"
Ryan initially became general manager in 1994, stepping down 13 years later, citing burnout. After serving as a special assistant to general manager Bill Smith for four seasons, Smith was reassigned, and Ryan reassumed the job in 2011.
In his statement, Ryan expressed confidence in Gardenhire, Antony and the rest of the baseball operations department to keep the Twins on the right track.
"I met with Terry last week when he told all of us what was going on, and I started asking him questions about how he wanted me to handle this and that, and he just looked at me and basically said, 'You've been around here long enough. You've been in all these meetings. You know what goes on in spring training. Just go down and do your thing,'" Antony said. "He said, 'You know what you're doing.' So that felt good."
In addition to vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliff, a member of the organization since 1987, special assistants Smith and Wayne Krivsky and have each previously been major league general managers, Krivsky with Cincinnati.
For now, there's no plan on when or how much to consult with Ryan regarding general operations and key decisions. Antony told Ryan to call him when he feels good enough to participate. The Twins start spring training in Fort Myers, Fla., next week.
"All I want to hear is the call that he says he had his checkup and the thing is completely gone and now he can start getting back to a normal routine and life, and whether that comes in March or April or whatever, it doesn't matter," Antony said. "It's the end result more than anything."
He added: "There comes a time you need to put your family and your personal health and everything in front of your job and the game, and he's a smart enough guy to know that this is the time to do that right now."
Dave Campbell on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/DaveCampbellAP