The woman behind Farmer Dolls is facing cancer


Kam Elliott has been sharing his daily photos of the fields and pastures around Durango, Colorado for about four years. Like many social media accounts, @farmerdolls started as a way to share photos of the landscape and American flags on the tractors she drives as part of her farming and haymaking work in the area. As she shared tractor cabin selfies, photos of baby calves and cowboy work, more and more followers joined her. Elliott said it surprised her that so many people didn’t know where their food came from, so she continued to share.

Elliott said she started her social media accounts to share photos with friends and family, but her following grew as people looked to her to find out where their food came from. Courtesy picture

Knowing that she is not the stereotypical male farmer that consumers may imagine, she has also tried to put a face to farming and to women working directly in production agriculture. Introverted by nature, Elliott said sharing so much about her life was difficult but worth it, especially in recent months.

Elliott spends his days farming, making custom hay and tending a herd of Angus cattle. Courtesy picture

His photos and reels (short videos with audio on social media) run the gamut and reflect his life – some days spent in a tractor cab, other days sorting calves, some days covered in grease working on equipment, and some wearing fringe and red lipstick. Elliott is also a co-host of the Huddle Company podcast. With a cast of women in agriculture, the podcast is known for hosting “huddle magic” and raising funds a few quarters at a time to benefit a farm person in need.

One of the farming photos Elliott posts to his @farmerdolls account to show his days of farming and ranching near Durango. Courtesy picture

In none of the photos she posted did it appear that basal cell carcinoma was present on her cheek. Several years ago, she was helping her husband, who owns a welding shop, and received a small spark burn while welding above his head. The small burn did not heal and, by her own admission, Elliott said she waited too long to make an appointment with a dermatologist. When she finally did, biopsies were taken and she was diagnosed with cancer three days later. The burn, she said, didn’t heal because the cancer was surrounding it. It was in January 2022.

Elliott had no intention of sharing a photo of her face after basal cell carcinoma removal, but did so in hopes of inspiring others to put their health first. Courtesy picture

“I never would have known,” she said. “I never would have known.”

Elliott had to undergo a six-hour surgery during which she was awake and numbed multiple times with lidocaine injections. On March 14, her surgical team removed nearly 2 inches of her nose, including her nostril, but they were able to remove the cancer without radiation or chemotherapy. A second surgery followed on March 17 to perform a skin graft.

On March 22, Elliott posted a video update showing the stitches in her face from her cancer surgery. A social media platform, TikTok, removed the video for containing “violent and graphic” content. On Instagram, the video received over 70 million views. Elliott said the views were amazing, but the direct messages she received made all the difference for her. She received messages from people in agriculture who made the decision to make an appointment with a dermatologist, and a woman reached out who saw her dermatologist after seeing Elliott’s message. This agricultural producer was also diagnosed with cancer and Elliott said she was able to be a source of strength and support for her.

As the stitches were removed, Elliott posted a series of photos of herself in a red dress, cowboy boots and a felt cowboy hat in a pasture with pairs of cow calves. She is smiling and wearing red lipstick. This photo prompted a post from a young girl with facial scars who told her mother that she doesn’t often see beautiful women on the internet who look like her.

Elliott on a recent trip to Nashville before undergoing what she hopes will be her final surgery on April 21. Courtesy picture

Elliott said she had no intention of showing her post-surgery face on social media until she came home from a date and prayed, asking what she was supposed to do with the experience.

“More clearly than I’ve ever heard before, he said to share this, it’s going to help someone,” she said.

With so much of that surgery coinciding with calving in the spring and the start of fieldwork and planting season, so many weeks locked in the house have been hard to heal, she said. After her first surgery, her sister-in-law, a wound care nurse, stayed with her. She warned Elliott that after the second operation she might not be happy with what she saw in the mirror. She said when she removed the bandages she was surprised at how good it looked and how well the doctor was able to fill the hole and cover the area.

Elliott underwent another surgery on April 21 to reconstruct his nose with a piece of cartilage in the back of his ear.

“We are praying for this new plan – it will remove the top of my ear and rebuild my nose and it will be covered for three weeks, we won’t be able to see it at all for three weeks,” she said. “Then on May 12 he will take it off and we will see if he survived. I pray that he lives and is well.

The worst-case scenario, she said, is a second reconstructive surgery that will require an open flap on her forehead to supply blood flow to her repaired nose. This procedure would require him to stay indoors for a month to avoid infection.

She hopes she’ll be ready to take to the wheel for the first cut of hay, although she admits that once haymaking begins there will be no slacking off in the long, late hours. More than anything, however, she said she hopes other farmers and ranchers will be inspired to see their doctor rather than wait.


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