Jayden Burgos has worn a prosthetic eye his whole life, but once he saw rapper Fetty Wap bravely face the world with only one eye, the 10-year-old was inspired to remove his own prosthesis.
Jayden lost his eye two weeks after his first birthday as the result of retinoblastoma, a rare eye cancer that mostly affects young children. “He’s had many moments of frustration – and sometimes sadness – and we work through it as best we can,” his mom Brenda Vaden tells PEOPLE.
“He knows there are certain professions he can’t pursue because of the need for both eyes,” she says, adding that he’s also had to endure uncomfortable check-ups and other complications that arise from wearing a prosthesis such as cleaning, infections and sizing issues. “He knows that there will be times that he will encounter people that will make fun of him. And despite all of this, he is strong.”
Jayden and his parents never considered the option of going out without his prosthetic eye until his father showed him a picture of “Trap Queen” singer Fetty Wap, who lost his left eye as a boy – and doesn’t wear a prosthetic replacement.
“Upon seeing Fetty Wap’s eye, Jayden was immediately taken aback,” says Vaden, 30. “At first he didn’t say much, but then we would overhear him talking to family members and friends about this rapper Fetty Wap who, like him, was missing an eye, and how he thought it was really cool.”
Jayden soon decided he wanted to show the world his true self.
“The day he decided to go without his prosthesis he experienced some discomfort and called us a couple times from school,” Vaden says. “Each time we told him we could drive to school and bring his prosthetic eye and each time he said he would tough it out. At the end of the day, he said everyone was talking about him, that most kids were curious and wanted to see it, some said it was gross. ‘But I really didn’t care, it was fine,’ he said. ‘The kids are calling me Fetty,’ he said, with the biggest smile on his face.”
Now the rapper himself has weighed in on Jayden’s bravery. “I’m glad that I was able to give him the courage to take out his prosthesis,” Wap, 25, said in an exclusive statement to PEOPLE. “I know how it feels to be picked on.”
“I’ve been talked about my whole entire life,” continues Wap, whose self-titled album comes out Sept. 25. “The only difference now is they’re saying good things about the guy with one eye.”
He adds: “I’m proud of Jayden and I appreciate him more than he may know.”
“If it hadn’t been for Fetty Wap having the courage to be himself, Jayden would not have had the courage to go without his prosthesis,” says Vaden. “While Jayden has grown up with a very strong support system made up of family and great friends, Fetty Wap inspired him in a way we were not able to – as much as we have tried to instill confidence in him, we don’t know what it’s like to face the world with only one eye.”
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Vaden originally shared her son’s story in a Facebook post, and says it has helped Jayden connect with other people who suffer from retinoblastoma.
“Seeing pictures or reading comments from moms, grandmothers, fathers, and kids themselves who have survived retinoblastoma has been, I believe, the biggest gift to come out of all of this,” she says. “He tells people, ‘I inspired a kid to be ok with his upcoming eye surgery!’ or ‘There’s this little boy whose name is also Jayden, and he also doesn’t have an eye like me. How cool is that?!’ ”
Vaden hopes Jayden’s bravery can inspire other kids to be comfortable in their own skin.
“We hope he has inspired other kids to be proud of what makes them unique, whether it’s visible or not,” she says. “We hope that one child that was hiding behind a veil of ‘normal,’ is now rocking his or her uniqueness.”