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Vampire Diaries Co-Creator Julie Plec Reveals She Had a Cancerous Tumor on Her Kidney

Julie Plec at the Barbara Berlanti Heroes Gala benefiting the non-profit organization Fuck Cancer, held at The Barker Hangar on October 1, 2022 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Gilbert Flores/Variety via Getty Images)
Julie Plec at the Barbara Berlanti Heroes Gala benefiting the non-profit organization Fuck Cancer, held at The Barker Hangar on October 1, 2022 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Gilbert Flores/Variety via Getty Images)

Gilbert Flores/Variety via Getty

Julie Plec, co-creator of The Vampire Diaries, is opening up about a cancerous tumor she had and the importance of early detection.

During Saturday night's Barbara Berlanti Heroes Gala, Plec, 50, accepted the Barbara Berlanti Hero Award by telling the story of a "friend" who she said had blemishes on her face that weren't healing.

As she explained at the event at Santa Monica Barker Hangar, the spots on her face were revealed to be pre-cancerous by a dermatologist, so she then paid $4,000 for a body scan. That scan revealed a cancerous tumor on her kidney, and she had to get her kidney removed.

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Plec then shared that the "friend" was her. While she wasn't suffering from any symptoms, she equated the early detection to "getting hit by lightning, in a good way," noting she was thankful she had the means for the scan. As a result, she donated $100,000 to F--- Cancer, to help those who don't have the ability to afford such early detection.

"Well, I'll tell you, it meant a lot two and a half years ago when I was first told," Plec told PEOPLE of the award's importance. "We were all ready for the event in March of 2020. And then just had to put a pin in it for a while. So I've had several years to really contemplate my meaning on this earth and my gratitude. I'm really honored."

Also at the gala, Plec talked to PEOPLE about the success of her works new and old, specifically the Peacock original series Vampire Academy, which premiered on Sept. 15.

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The series hit the streaming platform eight years after the 2014 film of the same name, and features Daniela Nieves, Sisi Stringer, and more, with Plec serving as series co-creator.

"What was most attractive about these books I think were that it had a really nice, powerful social justice thread running underneath the story," she told PEOPLE. "It's a story about a society that has been stuck in its ways for perhaps too long. And two best friends, two young women that celebrate their own friendship by taking a stand and standing up against a society that doesn't really want them to be best friends because they're from two different social classes. And so I've started trying to make sure everything I do has just a little hint of a reflection on the world that we're in, the world that we want to be in. And so this was a real treat to be able to do that."

Plec also elaborated on her HBO Max series Girls on the Bus, which was inspired by a chapter in Amy Chozick's book Chasing Hillary. The political drama series, which has yet to announce a release date, will star Carla Gugino, Melissa Benoist, Natasha Behnam and Christina Elmore in what Plec calls "a labor of love for quite some time." With one episode down already alongside Greg Berlanti, she calls it "smart and fiercely funny."

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"We kind of wrote it still living in a post-traumatic bubble of having just watched Hillary Clinton lose the election," she said. "And now all these years later, what we're writing about is what is the purpose of journalism and press in this today's time. What is journalism with and without bias? How do you get the truth out? How do you combat people who don't want to believe the truth? And it's not so much about, are you a Democrat, are you Republican? It's like, are you willing to stand up for what's true and what's right? And that's kind of where we want the world to head, I think. So we're trying to celebrate that in the show."