Country star Merle Haggard battling lung cancer

Sun Nov 9, 2008 8:47pm EST
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Country singer Merle Haggard, recently diagnosed with lung cancer, had part of a lung removed and is recovering at home, his spokeswoman said on Sunday.

The 71-year-old singer-songwriter underwent surgery on Monday in a Bakersfield, California, hospital.

"I'm feeling good ... better and better each day," Haggard was quoted as saying in a statement. "If not for the love and wisdom of my wife (Theresa), I might not be around today."

Doctors removed the upper lobe of Haggard's right lung after a biopsy revealed that he had non-small cell lung cancer, the statement said. Tests revealed that all the affected tissue was removed.

According to the American Lung Association, non-small cell lung cancer usually spreads to different parts of the body more slowly than the less-common small cell lung cancer.

Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer of men and women in the United States. The expected 5-year survival rate for lung cancer patients is 16 percent, according to the association.

Haggard has been touring and recording since 1965, combining folk, jazz, pop and blues traditions to compose songs that have been covered by the likes of Elvis Costello, the Grateful Dead and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

He is perhaps best known for his anti-hippie anthem "Okie From Muskogee," which topped the charts in 1969. Haggard entered the business following a decade of run-ins with the law, culminating in a stint in California's San Quentin State Prison.

(Reporting by Dean Goodman)

<p>Music legends Merle Haggard (L) and Willie Nelson perform together at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles May 5, 2004. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith</p>