MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Twins announced Monday that general manager Terry Ryan has been diagnosed with cancer.
Ryan said in a statement that the cancer was discovered during a routine physical with team physician Dr. Vijay Eyunni. A lump on Ryan’s neck was discovered and examined further, and it was determined that the lump was indeed cancerous. Ryan was then diagnosed with Squamous Cell Carcinoma.
"I’ve been assured this form of cancer is treatable and remain optimistic about my return to good health in the near future," Ryan said.
Ryan added that he is currently being treated at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., as well as Minnesota Oncology. He will not join the team at the beginning of spring training in Fort Myers, Fla., and instead will remain in Minnesota for the time being to focus on his treatment.
The 60-year-old Ryan is in his second stint as the Twins’ general manager. He held that title from 1994-2007 and returned to the GM chair in 2011. Under Ryan’s watch, Minnesota won the American League Central five times and advanced to the American League Championship Series in 2002.
Like Ryan, the Twins are hopeful that their general manager can overcome his recent diagnosis.
"Clearly, it’s a difficult day any time a loved one is diagnosed with cancer," said Twins president Dave St. Peter. "That said, we believe and know that Terry’s in the best medical hands in the country and really share his high level of confidence that better days are ahead and that he’ll be back at this ballpark in the relatively near future."
No timetable has been given for when Ryan might return to work. Eyunni said Monday that the likely course of action for Ryan will be a combination of surgery and radiation with the hope of eliminating the cancer. Chemotherapy remains the No. 3 option, Eyunni added.
Ryan saw Eyunni a few weeks back for a routine exam before heading to spring training. While Ryan was mostly in good health, he had Eyunni examine a lump on his neck that Ryan said had been there for about three weeks.
After several tests, it was diagnosed that the lump was not a cyst but instead was cancerous. However, doctors also determined that the cancer had not spread anywhere else besides Ryan’s neck.
"It’s treatable in the sense that the PET (Positive Emission Tomography) scan was good and didn’t show anything," Eyunni said. "If it showed a big lung tumor that metastasizes to the neck, then it would be untreatable. But there was cancer nowhere else. The only thing the PET scan showed was cancer in his lymph node so that’s really good news."
In Ryan’s absence, the majority of the decision making this spring will fall to vice president/assistant general manager Rob Antony, who is entering his 28th season in the Twins organization and his eighth as the team’s assistant GM. Antony admitted the news was hard for him to hear, but said he had an idea something might have been up after seeing Ryan meet with team doctors for an extended period of time.
While Antony said that players usually make the decisions for the front office in spring training based on their performance, he did add that he’ll welcome any input from Ryan this spring if he feels up to it.
"What I told him is I don’t know how you’re going to be feeling when you’re having good days or you’re going through some tough stuff, so I told him to call me whenever he feels up to it," Antony said. "I’ll fill him in on what’s going on, ask him questions, get him in the loop, but it’s going to be up to him. And right now the primary thing is for him to take care of his health and do what he needs to do to focus on that, and I think he understands that."
Ryan has earned a reputation in baseball circles as an honest and forthright general manager, and he typically meets with the media before every home game — a rarity among baseball GMs. Dr. Eyunni said Ryan’s reaction to the diagnosis was no different than how Ryan is on a day-to-day basis.
"He responded as well as he could. He responded better than I would have, honestly." Eyunni said. "As you know, Terry, he’s larger than life. That’s why I had a hard time telling him the news because look at him. He’s such a big personality. But he took it well. He was concerned for his family. He was more concerned about that and how he would tell his family and the kids. That’s understandable.
"He said, ‘Doc, let’s move on. I want to get this done.’"