This man is swiping for love on Tinder while battling cancer

When Sergei moved to New York from Moscow when he was 10 years old, he dreamed of being a hockey superstar like his hero, Mario Lemieux. But he never expected that 20 years later, the one thing he’d have in common with Lemieux was a deadly illness. 

“It’s rather ironic,” he says. Just one week ago, Sergei, who asked to omit his last name, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. But rather than let it break his spirit, he’s decided to face it head on—starting with his Tinder profile. A few days after his diagnosis, Sergei’s friend posted a screenshot of his profile on Reddit, where Sergei writes frankly about battling cancer.

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In an email interview with the Daily Dot, Sergei said his Tinder profile “kind of started out as a joke.” 

“The most common advice I get was to be positive, so I decided to take that to [the] next level,” he wrote. “As I told my friend: ‘I’m gonna Eat Pray Love the fuck out of this thing,’ so I decided to change my Tinder profile accordingly.”

Sergei is being treated at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan. Last Wednesday, he had a piece of his lymph nodes cut out in an effort to stop the spread of the cancer. After the surgery, he posted this photo on Instagram:

Chicks dig scars.

A photo posted by Serge (@yoimserge) on

Sergei says his prognosis is overwhelmingly positive. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the survival rate for patients with Stage I Hodgkin’s lymphoma is 90 to 95 percent. Sergei says that at Sloan Kettering, the percentage is even higher, at a whopping 97 percent.

When he shared a screengrab of his Tinder profile on Facebook, he was stunned by the response. “My friend asked if he could post it on Reddit and see what happens, just for the hell of it. I told him, ‘I bet you someone will want to bone me and someone will call me a douchebag,’ and poof, that’s exactly what happened,” he says. “But it was really cool getting a wave of support even from total strangers. I feel truly blessed.”

“I said, ‘I bet you someone will want to bone me and someone will call me a douchebag.’”

I wondered if Sergei’s bluntness on Tinder would affect his game, since he admits he wasn’t an avid swiper before he got cancer. “I wish i could tell you that I was a super ‘active’ Tinder user before my diagnosis, but that wouldn’t be the entire truth,” he says. “In reality, I’m just another guy in Manhattan on an app that even if you’re like [Fifty Shades of Grey protagonist] Christian Grey, your best bet is still a .01 percent reply rate. Not that I’m complaining, it’s just that in my eyes Tinder was never really a guy-friendly tool. I’m more of an OkCupid guy myself.”

Although Sergei genuinely hopes to find love—or at the very least, sex—on Tinder, he still has his mental health to worry about. Finding out you have cancer at the age of 30 is not an easy thing to deal with. To this end, Sergei’s been corresponding with another Hodgkin’s survivor who not only made it through treatment, but straight up kicked cancer’s ass. 

“She blew my mind,” Sergei said. “This girl was a competitive cheerleader when she was diagnosed, and [she] kept up her practice routine and even competed during her treatment. I was blown away. I pretty much figured that my ‘activeness’ would be limited in the months of my treatment, and that I would have to regain everything that I lost.”

Now, the self-described “CrossFit Kool-Aid drinker” is determined to stay fit throughout treatment—if only for the sweet profile pics.

Sergei want to share his journey with his Instagram followers, as well as his Tinder matches. But he also wants others to share their stories with him. That’s why he’s encouraging people to reach out to him via his Instagram

“If I can chill out a person that’s going through the same stuff, or cheer them up, or show them that things aren’t so bad, then I’ll be paying forward what all the wonderful people I have recently met have done for me.”

“All I want is for someone to love me the way Kanye loves Kanye.”

So far, Sergei hasn’t found his perfect match on Tinder, but he remains hopeful. And despite his Tinder jokes about becoming “empowered” through “casual sex,” he sounds like he’s genuinely looking for something more serious.  

“I have not met anyone since I put this up because quite honestly, there hasn’t been any time,” he says. “My life has been a giant whirlwind in the last week. It’s a bit surreal how one day can change your life forever.”

Even if he did meet someone, he’s not sure he would talk openly about it with others, least of all inquiring journalists. “I’m a big proponent of privacy and trust,” he says. “When someone enters a relationship with me, no matter how long and short, I want them to know that they can trust me during and after, and have private things remain private.” But ultimately, all Sergei wants is to find “someone to love me the way Kanye loves Kanye.”

Photos via Instagram | Remix by Fernando Alfonso III

Marisa Kabas

Marisa Kabas

Marisa Kabas is a lifestyle reporter and activist. Her work has been published by Fusion, Fast Company, and Today. She’s also served as an editorial campaigns director for Purpose PBC, a social movement incubator.