Small Victories with Dr. Pettus of OneTouch

WRITTEN BY: Katie Doyle

Life with diabetes is full of the unsuspecting, the unannounced and the inconvenient. It often feels like an uphill battle with very little positivity in sight, even as Diabetes Awareness Month winds down — but the Beyond Type 1 community is chock-full of stories of triumph and acceptance, and of tools and resources for dealing with the psychology of a chronic condition.

OneTouch recently conducted a survey of 1,036 people living with Type 2 diabetes that showed 83% of respondents feel they’re working hard to make everyday lifestyle changes. Despite this hard work, more than a quarter can’t remember the last time they received any recognition for their efforts to manage their diabetes, and nearly half stated they wish that they got some recognition for their diabetes self-management.

OneTouch is honoring the diabetes community by offering the #SmallVictories campaign as a way to cope with this chronic disease, and the company surprised two unsuspecting PWDs to celebrate their Small Victories — including Sally from San Diego, CA, and Franklyn from Jacksonville, FL (pictured). Dr. Jeremy Pettus, a physician who has lived with Type 1 since high school, recently spoke with Beyond Type 1 about this approach to diabetes management from both sides of the waiting room. Dr. Pettus is currently an endocrinologist at the University of California, San Diego, and he is celebrating Diabetes Awareness Month by engaging with the OneTouch #SmallVictories campaign.

Tell us about the OneTouch #SmallVictories campaign. How can people with Type 1 participate?

The campaign is basically a way of recognizing all the hard work that people with diabetes do every single day and that often goes unrecognized. The main goal with diabetes is to keep your blood sugars under control to avoid long-term complications of the disease (eye, kidney, nerve damage etc.), so people living with diabetes work extremely hard by watching what they eat, testing their blood sugar, taking medications that may include injections, being mindful of their exercise, and much more, with the ultimate goal of nothing happening.

You can imagine that doing all that work to achieve nothing, as in, no complications, can be very draining! The campaign recognizes this and is trying to reward people with diabetes for the “small victories.” Getting a good blood sugar or A1c result. Celebrating a diaversary. Congratulating yourself on weight loss or increasing exercise. To participate, people can go to the OneTouch Facebook or Twitter pages, post their story, and include the hashtag #SmallVictories. People can also post their small victory on their own Facebook or Twitter page with the #SmallVictories hashtag and tagging @OneTouch.

As someone living with Type 1, it can be challenging to maintain a sense of perspective, especially on days when blood sugar levels are uncooperative. How do you apply the theme of #SmallVictories to your own outlook on diabetes management? 

I really do try to celebrate the little victories. I take pictures or screenshots of my blood sugars and send them to friends and family. I try to reward myself with something (usually food) when I get a good blood test back from the lab.

From your perspective as an endocrinologist, do you think using the idea of #SmallVictories can be a motivational tool for your patients?

Nobody can go on and on doing something without some sort of positive reinforcement, and again, diabetes is a disease that really lacks ANY positive reinforcement. So I think this is a great way to recognize all the effort that goes into managing this difficult disease.

What other motivational tools do you use? 

Maybe the patient’s goal is to live a long and healthy life and see their grandchildren get married, or maybe they just want to lose five pounds. Everybody wants to lose 20 lbs., but let’s start with five and set a realistic timeframe to make that happen. If you love eating a particular food, for God’s sake, keep eating it — but in moderation.

Oftentimes it’s easier to add something to your life rather than taking away. For example, instead of saying, “I’m never going to eat ice cream again,” you can say, “I’m going to start walking 30 minutes each day.”

Do you have any advice for clinicians about having positive diabetes-related interactions with their patients?

Focus on one or two things that are likely to have the highest impact. Since individuals with diabetes are asked to do many, many things, they often start feeling that each thing is equally important. A lot of guilt often comes with that when they “know” they are not eating right, or exercising enough or testing their blood sugars enough. I think validating these issues and focusing on the most important things can be helpful: “Listen, I know you are often told to do all these things that you may not want to do with your diabetes, but between now and your next visit, let’s just focus on taking your medications every single day.” This way, some of the guilt is relieved and priorities can be agreed upon. 

Do you have any other thoughts about recent developments in patient-centered care and patient empowerment that you’d like to share? 

These days, “patient-centered care” is really a focus, and a buzzword, if you will, in diabetes management. It really is a case-by-case situation in which you have to draw upon the individual patient’s goals, because not every patient living with diabetes has the same goals for what their overall glucose control should be. For example, a 45-year-old otherwise healthy person with Type 2 diabetes should be
treated extremely aggressively given the long life they have ahead of them, whereas somebody in
their 90s should have relaxed goals that focus on keeping them healthy while avoiding side effects of
medications. The key is setting realistic and achievable goals and accomplishing them over time.

Read more resources for Type 2 diabetes. 

Katie Doyle

Katie Doyle is a writer and videographer who chronicles her travels and diabetes (mis)adventures from wherever she happens to be. She’s written about dropping her meter off of a chairlift in the Alps, wearing her pump while teaching swim lessons on Cape Cod, and the many road trips and fishing expeditions in between. Check out for more.