Getting a liver transplant is a long, involved, and lengthy process.
First, you need to have good medical care and good insurance. If your doctor has been carefully monitoring your liver with CT scans every six months because he realizes you're at risk (perhaps because you have Hep B), you will have a good chance at early detection of liver cancer. If you have no such proactive care, good luck!
Next, your doctor has to present you the option, you have to recognize its urgency, and you have to ask for the transplant, aggressively. If your doctor says, "This is not yet urgent", or "We can wait and monitor this", or if you say, "Can we just wait and see?", it might be too late by the time you recognize the danger (much like climate change and peak oil). That's because...
It takes 6 months to process a liver transplant application, then months to years to actually receive the transplant.
The application process has two parts: medical evaluation and financial means. The medical evaluation is a comprehensive evaluation to determine that you're a good candidate for transplant, that the cancer has not spread beyond the liver, and that you're psychologically fit for the transplant. The financial means evaluation... well, if you don't have the financial means, you do NOT get listed on the transplant list. Period. The only way to get a liver transplant without financial means is if you're an emergency case with sudden liver failure. Oh, you also need to have a designated caregiver who commits to taking time off work to take care if you, if/when necessary.
Once the application process starts, it can take 5 months to actually get on the transplant list. If the winter holidays occur fall in this time period, make that 6 months. If they accidentally list you on the non-cancer waiting list (with lower priority than the cancer waiting list), it might be another month (total 7 months) by the time somebody catches this mistake and it gets corrected. Most likely it will be YOU who catches the mistake, because nobody else is paying attention. If YOU fail to catch this error, the patient may be on the wrong (lower priority) waiting list indefinitely.
Once you're listed, it could take weeks to years to get the transplant. For non-cancer patients, the priority is determined strictly by a function of three blood test results: bilirubin, creatinine, and INR. As these levels go up, you develop ascites (fluid in abdomen), encephalopathy (cloudy mind), and then it gets worse. The problem is, you typically lose weight as you get sicker, and as you lose weight, the creatinine level goes DOWN, so your priority gets lower, initially! If you're lucky enough to be in Oregon or Florida, with no motorcycle helmet laws, you might get your transplant in a few months. If you're in Southern California or New York, you might be waiting a year or longer, progress to extreme illness and hospitalization, and be on the verge of death before getting the transplant. These are the patients who take 6 months to recover from the transplant. Often it takes days to weeks for the transplanted liver to start functioning. These patient have been IV fed for so long that the digestive tract is initially dysfunctional. They have to start with limited plain-cracker diets. Because their gut microbes have been ravaged, their gastric emissions are horrendous foul smelling.
If you're a liver cancer patient (like Jobs) the good thing is, you'll probably get your transplant sooner than the non-cancer patients, because liver cancer transplant priority goes up strictly by time on waiting list. "Sooner" is relative to when you got listed. If you trusted your Kaiser doctor and didn't sense any urgency, you probably didn't apply for the transplant until it was almost too late (there are limits are tumor size for transplant). If you are well-informed and proactively asked for a transplant application, you might get your transplant before you start to feel any symptoms of a dysfunctional liver. This is probably what Jobs did. In this case, your recover can be rapid, and you could be back to work in a few weeks. The bad thing is, while you're waiting, the cancer is growing. If you're in a non-helmet law state like Oregon or Florida, you might get your transplant within three months (on top of the 5-7 month application period), which is not too bad if you caught (and acted on) the cancer diagnosis early. If you're in California or New York, be prepared to wait 6-9 months (on top of the 5-7 month application period) before transplant. During this time, you get re-evaluated every three months to see how much your cancer has grown (not if, but how much).
Throughout this time, your senses are at a high state of alert for that phone call from the transplant center saying it's time to come in for the transplant. If you and the two other designated family members miss the call, they will pass you up. If you don't have a damn good excuse for not accepting that call (like poor cell phone reception) you can be taken off the list.
At the same time, you know the cancer is growing (cancers don't voluntary ungrow). You may undergo a chemoembolization treatment periodically, every 2-6 months, to keep the growth of the cancer in check, but the effectiveness of this procedure decreases each time it's used. Again, it's best if you fought to get on the transplant list at the earliest possible opportunity.
If you have Medicare AND gap insurance (because 20% of a lot of money is, for most people, still a lot of money), and a place to stay, you can list your transplant application in Florida or Oregon (or Tennessee). If you have Kaiser, they will give you the option of listing in Florida, but they probably will not go out of their way to promote this option. Heck, you'd be lucky if they went out of their way to mention how urgent it is to get on the transplant list in the first place.
In summary, it can be pretty damn hard to get a liver transplant. If you did, that means you got very lucky and/or somebody or somebodies worked their asses off to master the intricacies of the process, the financial situation, etc. to get you that transplant.