Merle Haggard had fans worried last week when he postponed several tour dates due to an 11-day hospital stay due to a battle with pneumonia. Even the singer admits that he's "really lucky to be alive."

"It could've gone in another direction had I messed around a little more," he tells Rolling Stone. "I'm just hoping I'm fully able."

The 78-year-old spent 11 days at California's Eisenhower Medical Center, as well as additional time recovering in another facility.

"I was coughing all the time. I thought, 'These damned old buildings have got something in them.' I just didn't recognize it as what it was," he says. "I always felt better after I'd work because of the exercise that it gave to my lungs. When I play, I feel better when I come off."

Haggard will return to the road Tuesday (Feb. 2) in California, just days after he canceled two tour dates over the weekend.

"I had a double case of pneumonia about the size of grapefruit on each side," he shares. "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.'"

Despite his sickness, Haggard remains busy and says he's been doing a lot of writing, rehearsing and planning a new album with Willie Nelson. He adds that he's "proud to be alive" and hopes that people realize this.

"I really sincerely thank everybody for the prayers. 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 reveals. "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."

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