Merle Haggard spent 11 days in the hospital in December and canceled a number of tour dates after he was diagnosed with the deadly lung condition. Haggard then sparked further fears for his health last week when he called off another show.
Two dates in New Mexico over the weekend were cancelled to give Merle more time to recover, and he has now spoken out to assure fans he is getting better.
“I’m really lucky to be alive,” he tells Rolling Stone. “It could’ve gone in another direction had I messed around a little more. I’m just hoping I’m fully able… It was like suffocating, like having a pillow in your face. It’s a terrible thing; people die from it all the time… I had a double case of pneumonia about the size of grapefruit on each side… I had a pain that went all the way around from my belly button all the way around to my back. I asked the doctor, ‘What was that pain?’ He said, ‘It was death’… There has been a lot of interest, a lot of prayers for me to be thinking about…
“I’m doing a lot of writing and I’m just proud to be alive and hope that people realize that. I really sincerely thank everybody for the prayers.”
Merle goes on to warn fans not to be alarmed by his gaunt appearance when he eventually returns to the stage, insisting his wife is helping him gain weight by cooking him lots of tasty meals.
“My wife is taking care of me. I’ve lost a lot of weight. I’m going to appear different onstage, I’m afraid,” he adds. “But she’s fed me well and stayed on top of me like a great nurse. I have no idea how I could do it without my family. I have to give them all the thanks for it.”
Merle Haggard is due back on stage in Riverside, California on Tuesday.