Credit: Craig Dilger for The New York Times
Kevin Hancock, chief executive of Hancock Lumber, at his company’s kiln and lumberyard in Casco, Me.
Kevin Hancock, chief executive of his family’s lumber company, thought things could not possibly get worse: The housing market was sputtering, hundreds of lumberyards had shut down and his company had to resort to painful cuts, hiring freezes and layoffs at its sawmills and retail stores.
The future of Hancock Lumber, started in 1848, and the livelihoods of hundreds of workers weighed heavily.
“It was pretty stressful,” Mr. Hancock said.
Then, he lost his voice.
When he tried to talk, his throat would tighten. He sounded and felt as if he were being strangled. What Mr. Hancock initially dismissed as a sore throat was diagnosed as spasmodic dysphonia, an incurable neurological condition that causes spasms in the vocal cords and is made worse by stress.
Mr. Hancock worried whether his work would prevent him from regaining consistent use of his normal speaking voice. He wondered whether he could continue as chief executive.