John Travolta Lost Girlfriend Diana Hyland to Breast Cancer Decades Before Kelly Preston's Death

John Travolta Lost Girlfriend Diana Hyland to Breast Cancer Decades Before Kelly Preston's Death

July 13, 2020

Decades before losing wife Kelly Preston to breast cancer, John Travolta mourned his girlfriend Diana Hyland, who died of the same disease.

On Sunday, Preston died at age 57 following a secret two-year battle with breast cancer. "She fought a courageous fight with the love and support of so many," Travolta, 66, shared on Instagram, adding that her "love and life will always be remembered."

More than 40 years ago, the Pulp Fiction actor lost his girlfriend at the time, Hyland, to breast cancer in 1977 when she was 41 and he was 23.

Hyland was an actress known for roles in Burke's Law (1965) and Smoky (1966), and for starring alongside Travolta as his mother in 1976's The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. She had had a mastectomy two years before her death, Travolta told PEOPLE in June 1977, adding that Hyland "didn’t know she was going to die for sure until two weeks before."

"And when I first knew her, there was a possibility it would never happen," he said at the time.

In the middle of production on Saturday Night Fever, Travolta flew home to Los Angeles when Hyland's health declined dramatically. He said he was with her when she died, recalling that he "felt the breath go out of her."

"I gave her great joy the last months of her life," he said. "I always feel she is with me — I mean, her intentions are. Diana always wanted the world for me in every possible way."

Travolta wouldn't meet Preston until screen testing with her for their 1989 comedy The Experts. When Travolta and Preston married on Sept. 5, 1991, Preston was two months pregnant with their son Jett.

Along with Travolta, Preston is survived by the couple's children: daughter Ella, 20, and 9-year-old son Benjamin. Son Jett died at age 16 in January 2009. In his emotional tribute to his late wife, Travolta wrote that he had a "very heavy heart."

"My family and I will forever be grateful to her doctors and nurses at MD Anderson Cancer Center, all the medical centers that have helped, as well as her many friends and loved ones who have been by her side," the actor wrote.

"… I will be taking some time to be there for my children who have lost their mother, so forgive me in advance if you don't hear from us for a while. But please know that I will feel your outpouring of love in the weeks and months ahead as we heal," he concluded.

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