Merle Haggard is recuperating in a Bakersfield, Calif. hospital, following surgery to remove a malignant tumor on his lung. While initially refusing treatment after his diagnosis in May, the 71-year-old country icon was persuaded by family and friends to have the operation. Doctors were able to successfully remove the tumor, and Haggard is listed in stable condition.

"Merle is recuperating from the surgery and doing better and better each day," writes Haggard's wife, Teresa, on his website. "I would like to personally thank all of you who took the time to send your love, support, care, concern, and most of all, all of your prayers! Merle and I both believe strongly in our Lord Jesus Christ and his healing powers. After all, He is the greatest physician of all."This is not Haggard's first struggle with his health. He has been forced to cancel shows in the past for heart bypass surgery, pneumonia and respiratory infections, among other illnesses.

Haggard was a pioneer of country music's 'Bakersfield Sound' and a key member of the country outlaw movement of the '70s, along with buddies Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson. Haggard has had 38 No. 1 hits in a career that has spanned over 40 years. He soared to popularity with his hit song, 'Okie From Muskogee,' back in 1969.

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