Sense of Urgency
She is about to celebrate her 36th birthday when she is diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. Now in the throes of chemotherapy, she has an epiphany… and a message to anyone listening.
Don’t wait for cancer or some other tragedy. Live your life.
This is the story of Queen Stewart, mother, daughter, wife, and all she overcomes personally and professionally in her fight back.
Queen gives up her successful law practice. She gets unprecedented camera access to MD Anderson at Cooper, one of the country's leading cancer centers. We follow her tightrope walk through treatment, through the medical world…
But unlike others, one brave new world is not enough for Queen. She makes new choices, with urgency. Choices she wouldn’t have made before cancer. Like pursuing stand-up comedy. She was funny, right? How about singing in public?
Too shy, she would never. She takes a comedy 101 class and performs a stand-up show; jokes out of life, cancer and kids, marriage. She sings on social media and plans to record her own song in the studio. The lyrics have to be perfect.
As we follow Queen through doctor appointments and medical decisions, through her singing and comedy endeavors, we also see a caring and attentive mother and a husband, Richard, who is trying to hold the family together. And we begin to understand the toll cancer, or misfortune or illness of any kind, takes
on family, friends, and community. Yet, as Queen battles on, she brings the message: it doesn't have to be this way. She knows, from experience.
It's in Asbury Park, NJ, where Queen speaks of her mother’s addiction, of living with multiple family members, of her father, in and out of prison. Driving over the train tracks, Queen would reflect, "there was not a family home". Despite any adversity within her family, she had dreams of going to college and becoming a lawyer. Having achieved it, she would question now if that path was truly making her happy. She had set aside too many dreams.
The lyrics to Queen's final song, titled, "Daydreaming" aptly say, "I will overcome".
Queen hopes this film inspires people to start living their lives before it’s too late - the message about not wasting time; about finding joy now before tragedy strikes; of cancer awareness especially to black women and the importance of cancer screenings - Queen Stewart may have found her purpose
through cancer but cancer is certainly not her message. Create urgency in your life. Find your joy. However small.
If the death rate for breast cancer is 42% higher for black women, we see a woman who beat the odds. If Queen amplifies this message, peer to peer, sister to sister, that too can change. Queen continues to tell her story at speaking events and in her stand-up comedy specials.
Queen StewartKey Cast
Runtime:52 minutes 16 seconds
Completion Date:August 31, 2023
Production Budget:90,000 USD
Country of Origin:United States
Country of Filming:United States
The picture shown is of Queen Stewart, Co-Director. She is an attorney and first time film maker.
Cenna Wilkerson is a triple threat: she shoots, directs, and edits. Whether behind the lens or in the edit suite, her eye is on the engaging, the new. With design skills as well, Cenna created the graphic title sequence for It Was the Music, and some remarkable cinema verité for the series. Artistically talented, technically sophisticated, she QC’s all of Point of View Productions work. Current projects include editing the feature doc Art Stops Here, helming A Revolution in the Desert, and Sense of Urgency, a film about what it takes to survive cancer.
Queen is the subject of this film.
Queen Stewart had something to say - a message to create urgency in your life. She wanted to make a film about it. She was talking to directors…
I knew in the first 5 seconds of that zoom call that I wanted to do it. I told her the commitment was real, personal, and that whomever she chooses has to be the right fit. That it might not be me, she had to be sure.
Having worked with cancer patients for the better part of 10 years, telling their stories in short form films, I had been looking for a more in depth exploration. It had been knocking around as a film idea for a number of years. With Queen, the strength of her message, her stand-up comedy, the singing, for a filmmaker that
was a bonus.
Two weeks later, we started filming.
I had already established a great working relationship with MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper and they gave us unprecedented access during Queen’s appointments. That changed our ability to show real exchanges with her doctors
and insight into the decisions patients face as they go through treatment. These are personal interactions that I haven't seen in a film before.
In looking back, what initially struck me about meeting Queen was the universality of her message. Cancer or not, everyone can relate to lost dreams, passions shelved because of time, resources, relationships, life. What I didn’t know in that first meeting with Queen was how the film’s creation - its completion
- would embody its own message. It’s about follow-through. You have an idea, you think about it and then you do it. “Just get outta the way,” as Queen would say.
Thanks for watching! -Cenna