2022 MLK Freedom Award Medal Winner

Cherry Hill attorney describes how illness freed her to live

Voorhees resident Queen Stewart is a 2023 Martin Luther King Freedom Award nominee. She is an attorney; musician; standup comic; married mother of two; and, most recently, a cancer survivor. Stewart’s illness was transparently documented on her social media accounts, where she often shared photos of herself after treatment. “(Cancer) made me afraid of nothing,” she said.

When Queen Stewart was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2021, she did what most cancer patients do: underwent treatment, spent as much time with family as possible, and learned a deeper appreciation of life. 

But, what separated the Voorhees resident from other cancer patients was her unwillingness to let sickness derail her dreams. Instead, the cancer propelled her to try things she might have avoided in the past, including transparent social media posts

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“It started as a way to update my friends and family,’’ Stewart recalled. “Then I guess I started to inspire people, educate people and people were so receptive of my vulnerability … So I just kept going.”

Stewart would often upload photos to her Instagram account post-surgery and dancing videos that proudly displayed hair loss from chemotherapy.

“It’s strange,” she acknowledged. “I didn’t start out wanting to help, but once I realized I was (helping), it fired me up even more to keep talking about what I was going through.”

One person who noticed Stewart’s was county Commissioner Jeffery Nash, who nominated Stewart for the Martin Luther King Freedom Medal after following her online; he even attended  one of her comedy shows.

Stewart was not a comedian prior to her diagnosis, but a successful attorney who had recently opened her own practice in Cherry Hill. Comedy was something that helped get her through   treatment. Stewart also tried music and found she had a gift for it. 

“I had always sang, but was never brave enough to actually try it,” she said. “So I started recording music and just kept sharing. From there, people just responded to it … It opened people’s minds up to what breast cancer is like.

“Cancer gave me a license to be free.”

The mother of two noted that not everyone shares the same experience and mental clarity she  did, but Stewart has an explanation for how fulfilling the cancer experience has been for her. 

“For me at least, you have a transformative moment in your life,” she explained. “Your perspective (changes). ‘What am I doing?’ ‘What am I going to do after this?’ I just kept thinking about them (her children). 

“My diagnosis just let me be free; it was like a light switch,” added Stewart, who shared that  ‘lightswitch’ moment on social media on her way home from chemotherapy.

A difficult reality that Stewart ultimately had to face was the chance that cancer is killing her. As grim as that mental conversation can be, it’s something she forced herself to think about.

“(I was telling myself) if you’re not free right now, doing the things you really wanna do, exploring interests that you have had, you may never get the chance to do that,” she remarked. “You have cancer, you can die … Nobody expects this at 35, with two kids, a budding career.”

Stewart adopted an “I don’t care attitude” toward life, saying that when faced with the possibility of death, people’s negative opinions are utterly meaningless.

“It’s easy for me to let it all out,” she said. “What matters to me is that I’m able to live and be alive with my family. I’m so grateful for it … It sounds crazy when I say it, but I’m grateful for my cancer.” 

Now in remission and feeling the healthiest she’s been since her diagnosis, Stewart plans to continue the things that got her through sickness. She began a website called Create Urgency  that details the beginnings of her story, and will be featured in a documentary set to release soon. 

To stay up to date with Stewart, follow her on social media @queen_esquire_ or visit https://www.createurgency.net/ for updates on the documentary.

“Do not wait for tragedy to strike, to start exploring your dreams, to start living your life,” she advised. “Find joy now.”

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