CHICAGO (CBS) — It has been nearly a year since U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk suffered a major stroke.

This week, Kirk will finally head back to the Senate, and get back to work.

As CBS 2’s Mike Parker reports, that’s no small feat for any stroke survivor.

It has been a grueling year for the junior senator from Illinois, but there has been evidence of the progress he’s made since a stroke largely paralyzed his left side.

He’s learned to walk again, and in November, Kirk climbed 37 flights of stairs in the Willis Tower.

He managed some humor at the end.

“Where’s the beer?” Kirk said.

Mickey Clancy of Lombard knows about his struggle.

“I had to learn to walk; I had to learn to sit up; I had to learn how to stand, and it was hard.”

Clancy had a major stroke in 1997. Now, the head of the group Stroke Survivors Empowering Each Other says Kirk will have to learn what she calls “a new normal.”

The voters and those who know him, Clancy believes, must also learn something.

“He may walk with a limp, his arm may be paralyzed a bit, may be weaker. He may speak slower and more deliberately but he’s the same person.”

Kirk says his staff has counted the number of steps from the parking lot to the front door of the Senate.

He’s hoping to climb all 45 of those steps on Thursday when he returns.