FILE - In this file photo taken Wednesday Nov. 3, 2010, in Wheeling, Ill., Illinois Sen.-elect Mark Kirk, R-Ill., speaks to media as he celebrates his election win. Nearly a year after a stroke left him barely able to move the left side of his body, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk is expected to climb the 45 steps to the Senate's front door this week _ a walk that's significant not just for Illinois' junior senator, but also for medical researchers and hundreds of thousands of stroke patients. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. (AP) -- Sen. Mark Kirk says recovering from a major stroke a year ago is the hardest thing he's ever done.
The Illinois Republican says he has a renewed sense of purpose and become more religious since the stroke in January 2012.
Kirk plans to return to the U.S. Senate on Thursday and climb the 45 steps of the Capitol. Kirk says that's something he visualized throughout his months of physical therapy.
The stroke limited movement on the left side of Kirk's body and affected his speech. He now speaks more slowly and deliberately and is expected to have a scaled-back schedule. He won't keep a packed travel schedule.
Kirk uses a four-pronged cane and may also use wheelchair.