John Travolta has had a life filled with heartbreak. As the death of his wife Kelly Preston from breast cancer made headlines, longtime fans recalled that the actor’s first love, actress Diana Hyland, died the same way more than four decades earlier.
Travolta dated Diana, who was 18 years his senior, after meeting her on the set of the 1970s TV movie The Boy in the Plastic Bubble at the height of his teen idol fame on the sitcom Welcome Back Kotter. Diana played Travolta’s mother in the movie, while his father was played by Brady Bunch dad Robert Reed.
Travolta told People that he fell head over heels for Diana despite their age difference.
“I thought I was in love before — but I wasn’t,” he said. “From the moment I met her, I was attracted. We were like two maniacs talking all the time on the set of Bubble. After a month it became romantic.”
The two had a serious, whirlwind relationship that began in 1976, but in 1977, Diana was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. Travolta was famously by his love’s side when she passed away, telling the magazine that he “felt the breath go out of her” when she died in his arms at age 41. He was just 23 years old at the time.
The actor also experienced the unthinkable when he lost his 16-year-old son, Jett, in 2009. The teen died after suffering a seizure.
On Twitter, fan expressed sorrow over Travolta’s triple heartbreak.
“I feel terrible for John,” one fan tweeted. “His first love Diana Hyland died from cancer also, not to mention his and Kelly’s son years back passed. Very tragic.”
“That’s the second time he’s lost someone to cancer,” another wrote. “Diana Hyland in 1977 as well, poor guy.”
“John’s had so much heartbreak in his life,” another wrote. “Diana Hyland (his former gf) had breast cancer as well. She died in his arms. Then his son. Now Kelly.”
“Knowing that John lost the two great loves of his life, Kelly and Diana Hyland, to cancer is almost unbearable,” another fan added.
At the time of her death, Diana was a star on Eight is Enough, an ABC comedy-drama series based on the family life of syndicated newspaper columnist Thomas Braden, his wife Joan, and their eight kids. When Diana became ill and died after completing four episodes of the series, her death was written into the script and her television husband Tom (Dick Van Patten) returned the following season as a widower.
While Travolta’s love story with Diana and her heartbreaking cancer battle was very public at the time, his wife Kelly, whom he married in 1991, kept her breast cancer diagnosis private. Many fans of the famous family were stunned to find out that Kelly had been sick before her death was announced by her husband.